Take Your Mind for a Walk

Take Your Mind for a Walk: Sit – Forward – Heel
Rose Jackson ©2/9/2005

I had to laugh. We were going to be studying Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind in our weekly women’s Bible study, and the coordinator had just asked if I’d teach the chapter “When Is My Mind Normal?” God has such a sense of humor. I’d been wrestling with anxiety, scatter-brained thinking, and then self-condemnation for LETTING myself think anxious, six-directions-at-once thoughts. I was completely unqualified – or was it ruefully, totally qualified – to teach anyone else about healthy thinking. So of course I said yes.

In the mornings I have my quiet time with God while I’m walking our two dogs, Katie and Jenga. There I go, multi-tasking meditation, but it works because I only need to use a superficial fraction of my brain to monitor the dogs. That’s the part that’s usually noisy and intrusive when I try to pray anyhow, so walking the dogs keeps it occupied with “mind-less” busy work while the rest of my brain tries to center and focus on hearing God.
So there I was the next morning, one “eye” on leashes and business ends and the “eye of my heart” crying out to see what God wanted to say through me, when it dawned on me: the normal state of my mind is like Katie (a Springer Spaniel) and Jenga (a “Chug”, Chihuahua-Pug mix) on a morning walk, running off in different directions at different speeds (my morning stretch), generally with conflicting purposes, and getting hopelessly tangled in the process.
That’s the normal state of my mind, but is that “normal?” Melancholy personality that I am, as soon as I got home and put away tangled leashes and harnesses and put some ice on my nearly-dislocated shoulder, I looked up definitions for “normal” and discovered that normal can mean:

(1) Conforming to or consisting of a pattern, process, or standard regarded as usual or typical.
(2) Well-adjusted, without marked or persistent mental aberrations.
(3) Not exposed to infection; healthy.

What is the typical, usual thinking pattern for our culture (I suspect that includes you)? Kathleen A. Hall says, “’People in this country live such fast lives of habituation . . . . We live from the outside in, not the inside out.’ Running through life has become the societal norm. ‘We have trained our brains for knee-jerk reactions.’”[1] In other words, our brains are constantly playing the pizza parlor game “Whack a Mole.” Or for you tech-savvy people, we live our days with multiple windows open. Not sure it’s true? Well . . . when you’re driving, have you ever ended up someplace other than your intended destination and not known how you got there? I have, and it scared me!

That’s typical-normal for us stress-bombarded, multi-tasking, time-challenged people, but it’s not well-adjusted, healthy normal, and I don’t think it’s what God wants for us. It’s definitely not what I want for me. What I do want in my thinking is this:

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18)
“And this is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best . . . “ (Philippians 1:9-10)
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Not so deep down, I realize that a “healthy normal” mind is peaceful, alert, disciplined, trusting God, and that’s what I cry out for in the middle of my multi-tasking days. But how can I be “transformed by the renewing of your mind . . . able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will,” (Romans 12:2) if I think “from the outside in” with Whack-a-Mole scattered, knee-jerk attention?

Back to Katie and Jenga and their tangled leashes. Katie at least had obedience training – just a short course, but enough to learn to respond to a few commands: halt, sit, forward, heel. When Katie is under my control (that’s why it’s called obedience training) there’s no chaos; we move forward and get where we’re going with no strangled dogs or dislocated shoulders (mine).

God freely gives us his Spirit. Jesus promised, “If you love me, you will obey what I command (sounds like what I want from Katie for her own good). And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:15-17)

Joyce Meyer writes, “The Holy Spirit gives information from God to the person’s spirit, and if his spirit and mind are aiding one another, then he can walk in divine wisdom and revelation.”[2] There it is: God’s Spirit (commanding, or if you prefer, guiding) through my spirit (obeying, cooperating) can aid my mind so I walk in divine wisdom and revelation. And do I desperately want that! So I take the commands I give Katie and apply them to myself:

“SIT” gets me to stop running and return to my voice command, to listen to God’s Spirit.

“FORWARD” reorients me by a choice of my will and gets me moving in the direction Jesus is going. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Paul, First Century behavior modification expert) Phil. 3:14

“HEEL” reminds me to stay close to Jesus and keep pace with the Holy Spirit. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us . . . We have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:12, 16

Silly as it sounds, I actually tell myself those commands (well, usually, and more frequently now) when I find my attention fragmented, my thoughts wandering, and my mindset anxious or negative. I pray I always respond willingly and with a renewed mind when I hear my Master ask me, “Want to go for a walk?”

Here’s a BUT for you to move today:
Dear Father and Master, I know that I “normally” respond more to circumstances and time pressures than to your voice. That’s not what I want for my brain chemistry or my life and the people I cherish, BUT your Spirit lives in me, so you give me the power to rein in my scattered thoughts and think “healthy normally,” clearly, alertly, peacefully, trusting you.

And room for your own BUT: God, I know I _______________________________ BUT you have ______________________________________________________

[1] Carrie White, “The Passion Connection,” East Valley Tribune 2/3/2005
[2] Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind,” Time Warner Book Group, New York, 1995, p. 80

Church lady or Disciple?

Rose Jackson© 6/1/2008

(In the next few blogs I’ll continue to focus on truth and our mind)

I always get picked. Whenever we go to the Renaissance Festival or any stage show that involves audience participation, there must be a sign over my head that says “Pick This One.” With horror I watch the performer’s smile grow as his/her finger points my way, and I try to duck, but it never works. The next thing I know, I’m up on stage as “Sister Helena Handbasket” or – worse yet – “The Church Lady.”

I cringe most recalling Old Tucson, the gray medicine wagon, and “Professor Magillicutty’s Astounding Transfiction Show. “ That’s where I became and confronted “The Church Lady.” I still cringe because I felt so incredibly uncomfortable, far beyond the normal and expected embarrassment at being the object of poked fun. Embarrassment I could have handled. Conviction was another story. Why was I squirming inside? It was that word: TransFiction.

There I was, chosen and branded probably because I looked inoffensive, good-natured, a bit gullible and easily embarrass-able: The Church Lady. I looked sweet on the outside, but that was fiction. My watching family knew all too well who I was inside, and the truth was that the inside didn’t always match the appearance, tambourine or not. I don’t remember specifically, but I’d probably just let a loved one have it with both barrels of my quick wit and my righteousness before the professor’s assistant singled me out of the crowd. Tambourine rattling in my hand, in my head I heard clearly, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1Cor. 13:1

For me to stop sweating when I’m the local comedic color, for my inside to match my outside and TransFiction to become true transformation, I know need not a miracle elixir like Professor Magillicutty’s snake oil (advertised in the sign on his wagon in the photo above to “Restore Your Love, Generate Good Health, and Improve Your Mental Processes), but something truly effective. I need the mind of Christ. And I realize to have the mind of Christ, I need to have the heart of Christ Jesus. In my heart is where fiction becomes conformation, and conformation to Jesus’ heart brings transformation.

In her book Battlefield of the Mind, Joyce Meyer says “We would make tremendous progress simply by learning how to discern life and death.” (P. 162) Oh, THAT’S easy! Sometimes the poison flies out of my mouth disguised as correction before I realize I’m spitting destruction (and yes, sometimes I’ve thought about it). Would that I COULD discern life and death before I let fly!

Astoundingly, though, you and I have hope and assurance that we can, and that we can be transformed from “Church Ladies” (or Men) to disciples. God promises:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you . . . . Ezekiel 36:26-27

But Christ has blessed you with the Holy Spirit. Now the Spirit stays in you . . . . The Spirit is truthful and teaches you everything. So stay one in your heart with Christ, just as the Spirit has taught you to do. 1 John 2:27 (CEV)

The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6

God’s Spirit in us is the difference between death and life, Church Lady and disciple; I want to be a disciple.

“A disciple, or apprentice, is simply someone who has decided to be with another person, under appropriate conditions, in order to become capable of doing what that person does or to become what that person is. . . I am not necessarily learning to do everything he (Jesus) did, but I am learning how to do everything I do in the manner that he did all that he did. Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 282-283

Apprentices learn techniques, but being Jesus’ apprentice/disciple isn’t about learning technique, or about swallowing a magic elixir – it’s about having his heart and learning to love with his love. In my prayer time over the past year as I’ve asked Jesus to show me what’s on his heart for people in my life, and as I’ve focused on personal repentance to get ready for Reign Down USA this past April, Jesus has done and is doing a work of real transformation in me. Love is coming to life in my heart in places I feared were beyond love’s resurrection. I’m even catching hurtful words in the thought stage and taking those thoughts captive to make them obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Gosh, what a relief – no, what a victory – to know that what I think doesn’t HAVE to come out of my mouth and wound others’ spirits! No more Church Lady! The sign on Professor Magillicutty’s medicine wagon can become truth, not fiction, for all of us. With his own Spirit and his “heart of flesh,” Jesus will restore our love, generate good health, and as a special bonus, even improve our mental processes!

Here’s a “BUT” for you to move today, and room for you to ask Jesus to reveal another “BUT” to you:

God, I know sometimes and in some places and relationships my “Christ-likeness” has been fiction, not truth, BUT I know and believe you can and will transform me because your word promises that you will take away heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh, Jesus very own heart, and put your Spirit in me. I give you freedom to show me where I need to repent and whom I need to love with your love. Thank you that from today forward I will not live a life of “Astounding TransFiction,” but real transformation! In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Your own BUT: