An Interview with Marilyn Meberg
Marilyn Meberg is a licensed therapist, an author, and a professional speaker. Listen in on our conversation for a moment as Marilyn described her own self talk to me.
Jennifer: Do you ever speak to yourself with self-condemnation? What if you do something stupid? Do you ever say, ‘Marilyn, you knucklehead!’
Marilyn: (Laughs) A million times.
Jennifer: But not to the extent that it’s a real problem?
Marilyn: (Laughs even louder) Of course to the extent that it’s a problem! But when I speak to myself that way, sometimes I need to hear that. Sometimes I’ve done a dumb thing, a tactless thing, something that is lacking wisdom. And I will chastise myself, and I need to hear that sometimes. It’s like a parent has to discipline a child. I discipline myself. “Now Marylyn, you could avoid that next time, if you would just…”
Jennifer: So you counsel yourself?
Marilyn: I take myself into my office and I have a chat. And when I come out of the office, I either want my money back, or I’ll say, “You know, that was good.” That’s constructive, not condemning though. As you know, there are some levels of self-condemnation that are damaging.
Jennifer: How do you know the difference?
Marilyn: Oh, sometimes I need the correction. Sometimes I need the discipline. Sometimes I need to own the truth. That’s instruction. That’s good for me. That builds me up. But when I feel condemned, like I’m not good enough, that’s not instructive. That’s destructive. Instruction brings life; condemnation brings destruction.
An Interview with Lisa Whelchel
Actress and Author of Creative Correction, Taking Care of the “Me” in Mommy and The Busy Mom’s Guide to Prayer and Bible Study.
I got so much out of my conversation with my friend Lisa Whelchel, and I know you will too. Just grab a cup of coffee and plan to read this more than once…it’s rich with insight and God will really use her words in your life as He did in mine.
Jennifer: I remember several months ago we had a conversation and you were talking about how you were going through a transition in your life. You found yourself on the airplane, telling yourself something, and I believe, if I remember correctly, you were telling yourself, “I’m so needy. I’m so needy.” Do you remember that?
Lisa: (giggles) Yes, now that you mention it. I’d forgotten about it, but yes.
Jennifer: Ok, so tell me – Is that typical of the way that you talk to yourself? Do you talk to yourself more during certain seasons, like this one, when you feel a little more emotionally sensitive? Tell me about that.
Lisa: Well, I think that I have conversations in my head that are rarely just between me and me. They’re oftentimes between other people and myself. Because I want their approval or I appreciate their point of view, I’ll often rehearse or review conversations with them.
Now, I think the LORD is showing me something. I’m becoming aware of and realizing that I shouldn’t be thinking through or rehearsing in my head what I am going to say. I do it because I don’t want to sound like a fool when I say something out loud. Or I rehearse and talk it out in my head because I fear that I can’t just spontaneously be who I am, – that I need to control what I say ahead of time. Therefore, I have these conversations in my head before I actually have them out loud. So when I do have them, they sound spontaneous, but really, I’ve thought them through so I sound and look good. My hopeful result is that I come out looking the way I want to look, rather than the way I might otherwise look just naturally.
Jennifer: Now, that’s interesting to me. So what you’re saying, if I understand you correctly, is that you use your self talk sometimes as role-playing so that you can rehearse what shows up on the outside.
Lisa: Exactly. In that situation you mentioned where I told myself, “I’m so needy,” I was reacting to the perception that I felt a friend (whose approval I wanted) thought I was too heavy. The message I was getting was that I was needy. So I was listening to them in my head and having that conversation, and then internalizing it and owning it.
Jennifer: And so you’re saying that you are capable, and probably all of us are capable of hearing not only our words in our own head, but also someone else’s that we’ve invited in.
Lisa: Yes, exactly. I think the most common way that we do that is probably hearing our mother’s voice in our head.
Jennifer: Hmmm, tell me about that. What do you mean?
Lisa: As we grow up, I think that, especially for me, I’ve always wanted to please my mom, and I’ve taken what she had to say with great value. So even though I have grown up, as I am thinking something through or considering something, I will hear her voice as well, and take that information into consideration, along with all the other voices – like mine, and hopefully, God’s – before I make a decision.
I definitely do hear my own voice, and hopefully, God’s voice, but I also hear the voices of other people who I respect either from as far back as my childhood to someone who is fresh in my life.
Jennifer: So, that being the case, let’s say that someone’s mother didn’t always give them truthful messages. How do you hear God’s voice louder in your head than any other highly influential voice – like a mother’s or a husband’s that may have spoken untruth to you?
Lisa: I think, first, it is the grace of God that makes you aware that it’s your mother’s voice, and not your own, not His, or not truth. And I think that if someone is reading this interview, and they resonate with what we’re talking about, they can take that as God’s grace, saying that “This is something I want to shed some light on.” And once you’re aware of it, then you’re intentionally aware of it, – intentional about what you’re hearing in your head.
And for me, uh, it’s funny that you would call me and have this conversation because the LORD has already, in the last few months, been talking to me about this. When I have these dialogues in my head, between myself or my mother or other people whose approval I seek, the LORD has really asked me to stop having those conversations, – to let them go. If I want to talk about them, He asks me to turn them into prayer, a conversation with Him alone and express what it is without filtering to Him.
You know, I feel like I can do that with Him. I feel like I can rest in the safety of how He feels about me enough to be vulnerable, enough to not be perfect. I think He’s probably the only voice that makes me feel that way. I think that with my mom and with other people and with myself, I want to be perfect, and I will make sure that I have rehearsed or thought it through so that I can give that appearance of having things under control. But with the LORD, I don’t feel that need. I feel like I can just be immature, and don’t have to have it all together, and if they’re simple inclinations or thoughts, I’m not afraid to come to Him with those.
It really has been awareness of those inner-conversations that has gotten me where I can bring it from the invisible to the visible. It’s helped me take my thoughts to the Lord as prayers, and sometimes, I’m not even using words. Sometimes, I can’t really form words because I’m so inclined to try to make the words sound right, that all I can do is give God not even audible groans. I take all these emotions and all these feelings and lay them before Him, so that He can interpret them.
Jennifer: I love that, Lisa, because that’s a more authentic way to live, because you’re not always rehearsing. What it does is draw you to authenticity on the inside and authenticity on the outside. And it’s beautiful because what I hear you saying is that you’re taking those thoughts and you really are holding them captive. You’re doing something with them that redeems them, – you’re giving them to God, because He’s the only one Who can take those things and make sense of them. When you do that, what you’re saying to God is: “Your voice is the most important. So I’m going to hush these other thoughts. I’m going to direct them in prayer to You.” And then God’s voice does become louder.
Lisa: Yes,…and that includes whatever is before the thought…
Jennifer: Um, tell me what that means.
Lisa: My thoughts are so affected by my own coping mechanisms, by my own habits and my own ways of thinking things that aren’t always the truth, – my own background and history, my own feeling about circumstances and people around me. By the time they get to be thoughts, there is a lot of pollution in them. And so even before it gets to that point, I try to capture what it is that can’t be expressed into words – the desire or motivation that leads to the thought. Those desires and motivations are more purely me. So that’s what I want to offer to the LORD. That’s the conversation I want to have with the LORD.
Jennifer: I think that’s a huge point, and I think that is helpful because what you’re saying is that you don’t just assume that a thought is a thought. You dissect it and you drill down and check out the layers, and find out what the motivation is, because that is purely you. You recognize that you are (and we are) able to even manipulate your thoughts.
Lisa: I live in my head so much that I’m quite adept at manipulating my thoughts! I’m more immature at understanding and labeling my emotions. I think I feel safe enough with the LORD to be able to start doing that with Him in this season of my life.
Jennifer: That’s awesome – that’s a great takeaway. That’s the one place we can truly trust – we are safe with Father God. Not with our own thoughts, not with our own motivations, not with the other voices in our heads, but with the voice of Jesus and the intimacy we can have with Him. I love that, Lisa. That’s huge and helpful. I really appreciate you, I really appreciate your honesty, and I am so glad you didn’t rehearse this conversation in your head…it was great!
An Interview with Patsy Clairmont
I was sitting in the green room before speaking at the Anaheim Women of Faith Conference. After a little small talk, I told Patsy Clairmont I was writing a book about what to say when you talk to yourself. After she uttered an interested ‘hmmm,’ I popped the question. “Do you talk to yourself? And if you do, what do you say?”
In typical Patsy fashion, what followed was an articulate, well thought-out, fully lived-out answer.
She only got a few phrases into it when I stopped her and asked, “May I record this?”
So what follows is our conversation. Just pretend you are listening in as I get some wise counsel from a wise guide. By the way, Patsy told me she does talk to herself, and when she does, she sounds like a cheerleader.
Jennifer: So when you talk to yourself, it’s as a cheerleader?
Patsy: Absolutely, because it’s my tendency to be extremely critical, especially of myself. In fact, I’m far harder on myself than I am on others.
Jennifer: When did you figure that out – that you were being overly critical and telling yourself untruths? And how and when did you make a disciplined choice to stop?
Patsy: Well, I had so many people saying things to me that were in conflict with what I was saying to myself. One of us had to be wrong! So when I had more and more people saying the same positives to me, and my words were all negative, I had to stop and say, ‘Everyone can’t be wrong.’ Do I trust their judgment? And do I think they are wise? Am I willing to receive what they are saying is truth? If I am, then I have to change the messages in me.
Jennifer: So do those old messages still pop up?
Patsy: Every now and then.
Jennifer: And do you know what prompts them?
Patsy: Well, it could be a sense of failure. Maybe if I did something that didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. Suddenly I feel myself cascading down and that old critical spirit coming in, passing judgment on myself. And I have to ask myself, ‘What would I say to another person – to my friend – who had made the same mistake? I would say, “You can’t do that to yourself. You cannot believe that because the enemy is a liar and a thief and he comes in to set a lie in place and steal your joy.”
So I have to deliberately go against such negative thoughts. One thing I’ve done for many years is a kind of three-step approach: Refuse things that are inaccurate, unkind or unedifying; replace them with what is good, pure and just; and then repeat that process for as long as it takes to bring my thoughts under control.
Jennifer: That’s fabulous. And that’s worked for you?
Patsy: It’s been exceedingly beneficial.
Jennifer: And Patsy, it shows – it shows in the way you live.
An Interview with Kathy Troccoli
I love to be around my friend Kathy Troccoli! She’s Italian, got a thick New York accent and is a gifted singer/songwriter who communicates warmth and depth as she speaks, sings and writes books. She’s learned a lot about how feelings can influence us and how truth can influence our feelings.
Jennifer: Do you ever think with your feelings?
Kathy: I think too much with my feelings. I remember a counselor telling me that if I could only learn to get into the rational/spiritual more, then I’d have more balance to how I handle circumstances.
Jennifer: Have you done that…I mean, learned to be in the spiritual/rational more?
Kathy: Yeah… One of the greatest pieces of advice I got was this…you know, when you’re at the beach and in the water and all the sudden a wave comes out of no where. It hits you; you go under and come up disoriented. That’s how I lived a lot of my life—tossed around by my feelings. What happens with the Lord and the truth and keeping your mind on truth is that you are equipped to see the wave rolling in so it doesn’t hit and disorient you. Rather, you’re able to ride the wave with the truth. It doesn’t take you under, you go over it.
Jennifer: You seem to live with that stability now. Were there times of real emotional instability?
Kathy: Oh yes! (She laughs.) When I was bulimic for ten years I’d feel “you’ll never get well” or “you’ll never be able to get out of this.” But God says “I am a Healer” and “in Me you are more than a conqueror.” Oh, I could quote 50 million verses on being an over comer – okay, slightly less.
So many women deal with self esteem issues: “I’m not good enough.” or, “I don’t think God really forgives me of this.” What happens is you rely on those lies and they bring you down but there’s wisdom in the truth of God– wisdom in His promises. And I have found that as I have confronted my issues and feelings with truth, I have become a wiser woman.
I’m now able to take what I have learned from not being pushed by feelings but instead hold onto truth. And it’s made me stronger and I hear it coming out of my mouth where I’m able to give wisdom in ways I couldn’t have before when I was drowning beneath big waves of emotion.
Jennifer: Kathy, that’s good stuff! You are a woman with wisdom and I’m thankful I know you.
An Interview with Alicia Britt Chole
My friend Alicia Britt Chole, a former atheist, is a sharp and witty author and speaker who is always full of depth and insight. In a casual conversation about her book Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years…and Yours. I asked her if her self talk had changed as she transitioned from living as an atheist to a follower of Christ.
Alicia: Coming out of atheism, I lived in a daydream world. All the time, everywhere I’d go, there was this alternative reality going on in my brain – either about the future or the past. Since I came to faith, God has severely disciplined my thoughts. I don’t even have permission to daydream because of what it develops inside me. I’m not talking about harmless hopes for a bright future…a lot of my daydreams were inspired by fear. Fear had a tremendous hold on what happened in my mind – especially as a pre-believer. And so I’ve developed this principle: Meditation on untruth is unprofitable for the soul. So if it’s not true, or not true yet, I won’t allow myself to go there.
Jennifer: What does it mean to be “not true yet”?
Alicia: Okay, here’s one of the things I struggled with as a newly married woman. I was constantly in this self-conversation about fear. I remember once when my husband, Barry, was supposed to be home at noon. When he wasn’t, I thought, ‘That’s interesting.’ At 12:05, I thought, ‘Hmmm.’ At 12:10, I was thinking, ‘I wonder if something happened.’ This was before cell phones. At 12:15: ‘What IF something happened’? At 12:20: ‘Something DID happen – and it was bad.’
By 12:25, I could see my husband crossing the road and getting hit by a bus. At 12:30, I could see him lying in a puddle of blood while the ambulance arrives. By 12:45, I pictured the policeman knocking at my door, announcing that Barry is dead. At 1:00, I am on the floor weeping, thinking about my husband’s funeral.
At 1:05, Barry comes walking through the door, and he’s greeted by me saying, “You’re alive! You’re alive!”
And you see, I just spent five years of emotional energy mourning the death of a man who was stuck in traffic. I was doing this all the time and finally began to hear Father God asking me, ‘Do you think this is beneficial? Is it true?’ I answered, Not yet. That’s when He started planting in my soul the principle that meditation on untruth is unprofitable for the soul. And that’s been the guiding force for my self talk.
Jennifer: So, your barometer is, if it’s not true – or not true yet – you won’t dwell on it?
Alicia: Yes, but here’s the rest of it: Even if it is true, will talking to myself about it change anything? And if thoughts don’t get past those two filters, I will not invest any emotional or mental energy in them. It’s not always easy, but it is always profitable.
Jennifer: True, but if it’s not easy, how do you make yourself do it?
Alicia: I’ve learned to train my brain. Simple, practical things. I begin praying for other people – this I do the most. I focus my mental and emotional energy on making a spiritual difference in someone else’s life. When possible, I open a Bible and start to read. It doesn’t matter if I’m reading about the cubits in the temple or 2 Corinthians, I start reading the Word of God.
Jennifer: It sounds like those things help you change your focus. Do they work quickly?
Alicia: Not always, but they do work. I may struggle with a negative or unprofitable thought 100 times today. My goal is 99 tomorrow and then 98 the next day.
Jennifer: Does it eventually whittle down to 1 or 0?
Alicia: Absolutely. I’ve seen that over the last 20-something years of walking with Jesus. There are things that were consuming in my self talk that now no longer knock on the door.
An Interview with Chonda Pierce
My friend Chonda Pierce is an award winning comedienne and one of the warmest, brightest and compelling women I know. I want you to listen in on a conversation we had while I sipped coffee and she munched on Lays Potato Chips straight from the bag! It will really give you a fresh perspective on your faith and her words are deeply grounded in the truth of Scripture.
Jennifer: You’re a comedienne. You’re funny. (At this point, Chonda interrupted and said “Make sure you print that in bold letters!”) I would assume that to mean that you are pretty hopeful by nature, but you’ve had depression. So tell me what’s the deal here?
Chonda: I think what’s interesting is the majority of comics, when you read up on their lives, are not as hopeful as they need to be. They come from very dark places… A lot of comedy comes from difficult places and times of hopelessness – me included.
Jennifer: So you are saying that you came into comedy because of an absence of hope. How is it then that you’ve come to a place where you are a person of hope now? Where does that come from? How do you practically pursue hope and receive hope on a daily basis when you’re naturally prone to depression?
Chonda: One of the greatest things I learned in counseling is that it’s okay to talk to yourself! It’s okay to argue with yourself. I have to do what is called “fact check.”
Jennifer: What do you mean by that?
Chonda: Even as literal as taking a piece of paper and putting a line down the middle and writing on one half “Fact” and the other half “Fiction”. For example, this “fact” that I think I have about myself…that I will never lose weight…that I will always be chubby and fat. That’s really fiction, not fact. The fact of the matter is that I don’t have any hormonal imbalance that could keep me from losing weight. If I wanted to get out and walk a little more I probably could lose weight. So the real fact is…it’s not that I will always be fat; being thin is not as important to me as eating that donut!! In other words, I have to balance what is “fact” and what is “fiction”. What is the lie and what is the truth? I write down what is the lie being whispered in my head. “I saw those two people over there whispering. I don’t think they like me very much. They always seem to get really quiet when I walk in the room.” Okay, so if that’s the lie I hear in my head…the truth is they are probably talking about the fact that their shoes are hurting. The truth of the matter is that there is no possible way I could know what it is they are talking about and so that is a lie that is whispered in my head. Then what you have to do is make a choice about which one of those columns you are going to believe.
Jennifer: Do you still make lists or write it down?
Chonda: I’ve done it enough now that I don’t have to write it down or make a list. I’ll stop myself and say…”Okay now where is that coming from; why am I telling myself that; or why do I believe that?”
Jennifer: That’s good. So you not only talk to yourself but you ask yourself questions?
Chonda: Absolutely…and that’s perfectly sane.
Jennifer: And that’s perfectly biblical because of Psalm 42:5.
Chonda: I think I read that in one of your books! (She announces with drama and then chuckles.) I tell myself to believe truth and ask myself what’s up when I feel hopeless. There is an “ooey-gooey” honeymoon time with God that’s awesome and that rotates often. But it’s impractical for me to live on the mountain top all the time. They’d be changing my medicine real fast. The practical thing is that we live in a fallen world and we are going to fall off the mountain every now and then and we’re going to be in just a doldrums or bored. We are going to experience every emotion that God created us to have and some of them we will lean into more than others and so we get bored. What keeps me from giving up on life…especially giving up on God, is recognizing that life just is what it is. This is not the final stop. It does get better. Heaven is so much better. If this world was just so incredibly great I don’t think God would have allowed Heaven to be where it is. Because, why would we have needed it.
Jennifer: Hmmm…there wouldn’t have been anything to look forward to.
Chonda: We have something so much better to look forward to and that’s a good thing to have on the horizon. Heaven gives me something to hope for. I’ve had to learn that on the days where we are not on the mountaintop to rehearse in the dark what I have learned in the light. When you keep doing that, as hopeless as you may feel, hopelessness needs to be on the list of lies. Our feelings lie to us-especially to women. I always say that if Satan is the author of lies then depression is his cell phone because depression is often based upon how you feel.
Jennifer: So you are saying, essentially…hopelessness is a lie for a believer in Christ.
Jennifer: Then the truth is what…hope?
Chonda: The truth is Christ and Christ is Hope. Colossians says “I’m going to give you a secret that has been kept hidden from generations is now disclosed to the saints”. In other words, when Jesus came the secret was out. “…and the secret or mystery is this…Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:26-27)
Jennifer: Oh, that’s a great ending. I wish they could hear the passion in your voice. Girl, that rocks! You rock!
Centuries ago, ancient Hebrew scribes scrupulously copied the text of the Old Testament again and again as a way of preserving Scripture for future generations. In doing so, they had to write the name of God countless times.
But they so highly regarded His name that they used only the consonants “YHWH” to denote His name and refrain from misusing it. Biblical scholars are not sure exactly what the vowels were for the divine name of God known today as the tetragrammaton. “Yahweh” is our closest guess.
Before a Massoretic scribe would write the name of God, he would first wash himself and then use a new pen. This was to show respect for the name of God and to carefully keep from breaking the Third Commandment. (Ex 20:7)
A Jew never even dared to utter the name of God when reading Scripture aloud. Instead he would substitute “Adonai,” which means “Lord” or “Master.” This may be the reason the disciple Matthew most often used the phrase “kingdom of heaven” instead of “kingdom of God” like the other gospel writers.
Now, don’t misunderstand. Faithful men and women throughout the Bible spoke the name of God. God is our Father and we should speak His name also. But we should never be casual or crass in doing so. I think we could all benefit from having a little of the Jewish people’s fear factor.
We should guard ourselves against using God’s name without respect or “in vain” as the Third Commandment says. “God” is not a stand-in for “Wow!”
Fear Factor Self-Assessment
So how about your “fear factor?” Think about how you regard and reverence God. Check out the questions below and do a self-assessment.
Measure if you have an appropriate level of “fear of the Lord” by the way you answer the below questions.
- Do you say the name of God casually? For example, “Oh Lord!” or “Oh my God!”
- How do you feel when you hear someone say God’s name as profanity?
- Do you consider the clothes you choose to wear to worship as an act of worship?
- When someone else is leading in prayer, what or whom are you focused upon?
- What times or places do you consider “sacred?”
- Do the words you choose in everyday conversation reflect reverence for God?
- Do your entertainment selections reveal that all of life is sacred?
- Does your life demonstrate the character of God?
Well, if you’ve read through Chapter 4 and you are feeling a little overwhelmed, these movie quotes will loosen you up! Truly, you might think you are crazy at times but if you think about Bob, you will feel quite normal! And if you haven’t seen the movie, tell your soul to drop everything and go rent it! Enjoy!
From: What About Bob (1991 – Touchstone Pictures)
Bob Wiley: “Baby steps. Get on the elevator… Baby steps. Get on the elevator… Ah, I’m on the elevator.”
Bob Wiley: “AHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
Dr. Leo Marvin (Bob’s Psychiatrist): “Are you married?”
Bob Wiley: “I’m divorced.”
Dr. Leo Marvin: “Would you like to talk about that?”
Bob Wiley: “There are two types of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don’t. My ex-wife loves him.”
Dr. Leo Marvin: “So what you’re saying is that even though you are an almost paralyzed, multiphobic personality who is in a constant state of panic, your wife did not leave you, you left her because she loves Neil Diamond.”
Bob Wiley: [to man on bus] “Hi. I’m Bob. Would you knock me out, please? Just hit me in the face.”
Bob Wiley: “You ever hear of Tourette’s syndrome? Involuntarily shouting out profanities?”
Dr. Leo Marvin: “It’s exceptionally rare.”
[Bob then proceeds to spout random profanities at the top of his lungs]
Dr. Leo Marvin: “Why exactly are you doing this?”
Bob Wiley: “Well, if I fake it then I don’t have it.”
Bob Wiley: “What if I’m looking for a bathroom, I can’t find one… and my bladder explodes?”
Part of the way you tell your soul to “tune in” is by becoming spiritually alert. When your soul is truly “awake,” you become aware of the grit and grime that can accumulate in your soul.
So in order to keep a clean soul, engage in the discipline of confession. Confession is a liberating and loving experience you can have with God. Follow the four C’s to begin:
- Be candid: Tell God the truth about yourself, your struggles, and your sin. He already knows, but verbalizing the truth helps you to know yourself and your need for God.
- Be concise: Don’t just throw vague platitudes to God like ”forgive me where I’ve fallen short.” Instead, name your sin. Be concise. Is it lust? Then say so. Is it anger? Say so. Is it pride? Tell God. This will help you claim your sin rather than decorate it and dismiss it with some spiritual sound bites.
- Be complete: There have been many times when I’ve entered into confession with God, and I have not acknowledged the whole truth. To me, partial truth is not very different from a lie. Be complete when you confess your sin to God. You can’t surprise Him, and you can trust Him. Confess the struggle, confess the temptation, confess the fear you feel about repeating the sin. To confess means to agree with God. Don’t call something “gray” that God calls “black.” He knows the difference, and when you genuinely and completely confess, you acknowledge that you know, also.
- Be contrite: That means be sorry, apologetic, repentant, and regretful. When we truly glimpse the ugliness of our sin, we can’t help but be regretful. It hurts us, it hurts others, and it hurts God. It’s healthy to feel regret over your sin, because your contrition is attractive to God–it leads to release from the bonds of guilt.
And then avoid these three C’s:
- Casual: A flippant attitude about sin is offensive to God. Sin is so serious that Jesus died to save you from it. Don’t take lightly what cost Jesus His Life.
- Cocky: The opposite of contrition is pridefulness. Always remember, you don’t deserve forgiveness. There is no place for pride in the heart of one who humbly recognizes their need for God.
- Condemning: It is not healthy to live in daily, constant, condemning regret over your past sin. When you have confessed your sin, God is faithful to forgive you of your sin. (1 John 1:9) That means He does not condemn you. Don’t condemn yourself. Since God removes your sin as far as the east is from the west and remembers it no more, you don’t need to hold on to it, either!
The most important C I want you to remember is Cleansing! Yes, if you confess your sin, God is faithful and just to forgive you of your sin and to CLEANSE you of all…ALL…not just some…ALL unrighteousness. So, tell God your sin, agree with Him that it is ugly, ask Him to forgive you, trust Him to help you walk from the sin, and then thank Him for the cleansing! Woo! Hoo! He whom the Son sets free is free indeed! (John 8:36).
A Clean Oven
In Chapter Five, I tell the story about my oven-cleaning habits. After moving into my new home with its spotless oven, I ended every cooking excursion by lifting the coils to wipe them clean. I removed the pans and cleaned beneath them every time! I was just so happy that it was clean, and I wanted to keep it that way forever! I didn’t ever want that vintage, pristine stove top to end up like the burnt and encrusted stoves of my past.
Well, there’s a moral to this story, and hopefully you’ve realized that the reason I’m ranting and raving about cook tops has little to do with kitchen grime. The point is that it’s easier to keep something clean when you tend to it daily. So far, I’ve given you some tips on keeping your thought closet tidy. Now, for fun, here is an article about cleaning your oven!
Adventures in Oven Cleaning
By Becky Williams
We humans sometimes have odd relationships with our ovens. On one hand, we love the ROI (return on investment) that we receive. Lumpy batter becomes yummy cake, raw meat becomes tender roast beef, and soupy mixtures become sumptuous casseroles. However, on the other hand, we hate to accept the task of maintaining our hard-working ovens. So we open the door quickly, shove the pan inside, and slam the door so that we don’t have to see the gunk and grime of last year’s sweet potato casserole crusted into crisp carcinogens on the lining of our oven.
Don’t let that crusty interior haunt your cooking! If you decide to join the ranks of those who refuse to tolerate the chunky, crunchy interior of their oven or the gunky goo that lies just an inch beneath their top burners, then break out the cleaning supplies. It’s time to bring those yellow rubber gloves back into style.
As always, read your owner’s manual first to find out the best mode of cleaning. If you have a self-cleaning oven or a continuous cleaning oven, then follow each one’s respective cleaning process. For regular oven types, here are three simple steps to cleaning:
Step One: Remove the racks from the oven and soak them in hot, soapy water for about twenty minutes. (If the racks are crusted into place by Aunt Fern’s baked beans, then have your husband help pull them out.) The grime should scrub away easily after this, but if some of the scum is stubborn, continue to soak.
Step Two: While the racks are soaking, spray down the inside of the oven with your oven cleaner, and then heat for thirty minutes at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. During your wait, allow yourself to dance like David did before the Lord, singing songs of praise as you say goodbye to grease-splattered growths on your oven burners. (Have more time? Get a good night’s sleep while your oven cleaner soaks inside the oven and then wipe down in the morning.)
Step Three: Attack! After allowing your oven to cool, snap on those yellow gloves and use a sponge soaked in warm, soapy water to clean out the inside. Although the cleaning should be fairly easy, you may have to put your elbow into some scrubbing if the sweet potato pie refuses to give up without a fight.
Be sure to wipe down carefully. Don’t skimp on the finishing touches simply because your arms feel tired. You’ll feel even worse if your next green bean casserole taste strongly like the industrial oven cleaner you left behind.
At for the top of the oven, use hot, soapy water to soak the food around the burners. Sponges and scrub brushes work well, but an old toothbrush get to the cracks that not even nimble fingers can reach.
Did you remember to clean:
The crooks and crannies?
The oven door?
The seal around the oven door?
To prevent messy ovens in the future, try these easy tips:
– Line your oven’s base with foil, but don’t allow it to touch the burners. (Foil will catch on fire.)
– Place your casseroles and pies on foil-lined cookie sheets that will catch any leaks and overflows.
After you clean your oven, no matter how messy it was this time, rejoice in the fact that from now on maintaining its cleanliness will be much easier … Now, go bake your rhubarb pie in confidence!
Anti-Boredom Book List
These are some of my favorite books that keep the mental leg of my table strong! I hope you find them encouraging, as well as fun to read. If you have a good book to recommend, please leave it in the comment section at the end of the page.
This science-fiction novel is the first in C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy as it follows the abduction of Dr. Ransom. Ransom is taken by spaceship to Malacandra, (Mars), where he discovers that Thulcandra (Earth) has grown so corrupt that the Spiritual Being who controls his planet has cut it off from the other planets. Therefore, earth is called “the silent planet.” When Ransom lands on Malacandra, he escapes his captors and then faces the challenges of surviving the strange surroundings and inhabitants, as well as finding a way back to Earth.
I am not usually a science fiction fan, but this was not a science fiction story to me. Instead, it was a human story of kindness and redemption.
Written in 1850, The Scarlet Letter is one of America’s greatest pieces of literature. It is set during seventeenth-century Massachusetts when a strict Puritan influence governed the people. Hester Prynne believes she is a widow when she bears an illegitimate child, Pearl, from an adulterous relationship with a man who refuses to take responsibility for either his actions or his daughter.
The entire community, especially Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale, rebukes Hester and forces her to wear the letter A on her clothes at all times as a punishment for her sin of adultery. Meanwhile, the young mother is unaware that her husband, Roger Chillingworth, is very much alive and living in the same town under a different name as he seeks revenge on the father of the illegitimate child.
I love the way Hawthorne, one minute, makes me feel like Hester, the next like Dimmesdale, and then even Chillingworth at times. To me, the story is less about adultery and more about the liberty of truth, the strength of loyalty, and the desecrating effect of secrets and revenge.
For two centuries, the Pyncheon family has been haunted by a mysterious past of an ancestor accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts during the seventeenth century. Over 200 years later, the remaining four members of the respectable New England family are left to care for one another in a house that has decayed greatly as if the family’s haunting past has physically effected on the mansion itself. The family also has suffered through the years, coming to a point of poverty.
Inside the house of seven gables, present circumstances force the relatives to face their past, which grows more complicated when they discover old documents concealed behind the wall panels. Can these musty pages offer further clues to the past for the Pyncheons? Oh, I will never tell! You will just have to read it! And by the way, this story was based on the history of one of Hawthorne’s own relatives who brought a legendary curse on the family when she was condemned during Salem’s infamous witch trials.
Based on the true story of Alexander Selkirk, who survived five years alone on an uninhabited island near Chile, Verne’s classic tale records the events of five people and their dog who escaped from a Civil War prison camp via a hot air balloon. When their balloon goes down, they are stranded on an unknown island somewhere in the Atlantic. As the survivors set up camp on the island, they begin to notice that the island has peculiar characteristics. Medicine mysteriously appears at the moment of need and pirates are routed away in a similar mysterious fashion. The longer the survivors remain on the island, the closer they grow to uncovering its secret.
This book isn’t considered “Chick-Lita” for sure, but this chick was crazy about the castaways and their enchanting island!
When wealthy Aunt Touchett brings her niece, Isabel, to Europe, the lovely young lady is expected to marry quite soon. Yet this spirited American woman is determined to decide her own fate, and to the surprise of her family, she turns down the first two eligible suitors without hesitation. However, an irresistible attraction draws Isabel to the charming Gilbert Osmond, who skillfully hides an evil nature beneath his cultivated facade.
The story of Isabel’s love and betrayal is one of Henry James’ most well-known books. I found myself at the end of the book shouting to Isabel, “Don’t do it”! You will have to read the book to find out what she did! It is a truly beautiful study of the multi-faceted heart of a woman.
Scottish author George MacDonald weaves a fantasy tale in his 1871 novel “The Princess and the Goblin” that fascinated even well-known author J.R.R. Tolkien during his childhood. MacDonald’s story teaches its key characters the necessity of sometimes believing without seeing as it follows the steps of the young Princess Irene, her friend, Curdie, and Irene’s great-great grandmother who lives at the top of the castle stairs in a secret room. While the princess learns her grandmother’s mysterious secret, Curdie, a minor’s son, discovers an evil plot of the goblins who live beneath the mountain.
Told in the fashion of folk tales, this book is simple enough for children to enjoy and compelling enough for adults to love with its fantastical images of goblins, burning roses, and a thread so fine that it is invisible yet strong enough to guide the young Irene back to the safety of her grandmother’s arms. I featured this book at my summer classic lit chat–the women loved it.
Rest and Be Thankful
Sally Bly and Mrs. Pell, a wealthy widow, exchange their European life for a journey into America’s western frontier. The experience is a stark change for the ladies who have spent so many years in the more sophisticated culture of Europe. When a rainstorm overtakes them in Wyoming, they seek shelter at a nearby ranch. During their stay, the ranch and its peaceful valley capture the hearts of Sally and Mrs. Pell who buy the land and turn it into a quiet writer’s retreat.
This book was charming and enchanting. I loved the characters and the unexpected love story that emerged. It also taught me a lot about life in the west. If you write, want to write, or just curious about writers, you will get a kick out of this book!
Biographer Ron Cherno delves into the records of America’s history to paint a compelling portrait of one of the country’s most influential yet often over-looked founding fathers. Modern history marks Alexander Hamilton as the first U.S. Secretary of Treasurer, a member of the Constitutional Convention, and co-author of the Federalist Papers, yet Cherno expands Hamilton’s character to reveal his depth of brilliance and intelligence.
Cherno claims that Hamilton’s opposition of slavery and capitalistic ideals made him a man far ahead of his time, a man with whom Americans today could relate. After digging into nearly 22,000 pages of articles, manuscripts and letters, Cherno writes about a man who was not an arrogant, conceited monarchist as he is sometimes accused, but a talented, and intelligent man who found religion later in life.
Trust me, as I turned the final pages (which I dreaded because I knew how it would end), I was so sad! I think I have a huge crush on Alexander Hamilton and I really, really, really don’t like Aaron Burr!
Although the second president of the United States is sometimes lost in the fame of George Washington, who came before him, and Thomas Jefferson, who followed him in office, this book shines light on the widely accomplished life of John Adams. The young lawyer moved into the political realm of the colonies when his patriotism drove him to prominent positions in the First Continental Congress. Although he held a significant role during his presidency, Adam considered his highest achievement to be, according to McCullough, his role in America’s independence.
This biography also delves into Adams’ relationship with his long-time friend and rival, Thomas Jefferson, as well as the loving romance between him and his wife, Abigail.
To be honest, the letters in the book and the presentations of Adams journal thoughts were the highlight of the book for me. It made me want to be more like Abigail Adams, that’s for sure!
As the daughter of former President Harry Truman, Margaret Truman uses her own childhood experience in the White House to invite readers across the threshold into the President’s house for a personal look at the lives of First Ladies. Assessing the roles and accomplishments of 29 First Ladies, Truman supports Lady Bird Johnson as the most successful, depicts Florence Harding as possibly the worst, and defends the sometimes criticized life of Mary Todd Lincoln.
Her writing includes first-hand interviews with recent First Ladies such as Lady Bird Johnson, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, and Barbara Bush. Truman concludes that no matter who fills the high priced shoes of “First Lady,” each woman should encourage the public support of her husband. I really enjoyed the variety in this book.
His Excellency: George Washington
The personality and character of George Washington unfolds as author Joseph Ellis shares his study of one of the United States’ greatest military and political leaders. Ellis explains some of the inner forces and emotions that influenced the stoic leader, which gives an inside view not only of the founding father but also of the country itself during the beginning stages.
Washington’s bravery in battle and personal dislike of the imperial English led him into the role of a general who guided the young colonies to freedom despite the fact that he lost more battles than he won. Later, Washington left another footprint in history as America’s first president who fought to maintain the hard-won independence of the new Nation. One of the most striking memories I have of this book was Washington’s incredible self-command. It truly was inspiring.
Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love
Galileo is noted for his creation of the first reliable telescope that led to his controversial conviction that the earth rotates around the sun. Although much is known about his trials with the Inquisition because of this “heretical belief,” Dava Sobel offers further insight to history with the untold story of one of Galileo’s strongest pillars of comfort during this time–“the oldest daughter of his three illegitimate children. Virginia became a nun at the age of 13 and took on the name Sister Maria Celeste. She corresponded with her Father from her convent, and 124 of her letters are still preserved today.
Sobel translates each letter from the original Italian and interweaves them into the previously-known historical facts about Galileo, revealing the character of the famous scientist who held a strong allegiance to both his science and his faith. Through the letters of his daughter, Dava shows readers that the nun was a loving daughter who became one of her father’s strongest allies and confidants.
I loved this book and was totally fascinated by the science (which usually doesn’t fascinate me), the history, and the tenderness of the father/daughter relationship.
JOURNALS AND NEWSLETTERS TO KEEP YOU THINKING
The Mars Hill Audio Journal is a bimonthly series of audio programs that is “committed to assisting Christians who desire to move from thoughtless consumption of contemporary culture to a vantage point of thoughtful engagement.” In the journals, listeners are challenged not only to love God and their neighbor, but also to pay close attention to the neighborhood in which they live. Those who do not understand their environment have a difficult time ministering to it. Therefore, those who follow Christ should seek to understand the spheres of music, literature, government, economics, eating, and drinking in addition to prayer, Bible study, and evangelism.
These audio journals are used to encourage sensibilities and habits of thoughtful cultural engagement through creative audio resources. Each ninety-minute program includes interviews with a variety of guests who discuss a diverse range of topics, and is available on MP3, cassette tape, and CD.
In a world where the color gray is preferred over anything more distinct like black and white, A Slice of Infinity is a resource “aimed at reaching into the culture with words of challenge, words of truth, and words of hope”. The weekly email messages, from the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, offer readers the chance to define truth in areas of culture that otherwise go unchallenged by the world. This ministry is dedicated to answering the questions of those who are seeking the bigger meaning of life, using the truth found in the Gospel of Christ. During each message, the reader is challenged to investigate their life, their beliefs, and their culture, as well as examine how the distinctive message of Jesus Christ can be applied to each area.
My thanks to Becky Williams for helping me write the summaries and compile this list.
Relationship Between Hope & Optimism with Dr. Rozell
I was curious about the relationship between hope and optimism, so I called an expert!
Dr. Elizabeth Rozell is a professor at Missouri State University. She has done significant research in the area of “Learned Optimism.” I asked Dr. Rozell why she chose this line of research and she said, “I was drawn to it because I had learned to be fairly pessimistic.”
I loved that answer! She may have been a learned professor, but she was still a girlfriend I could relate to! I sat across from her desk in her upstairs office and asked some questions about optimism. I wanted to know if she felt that one could learn to be optimistic, and if there is a difference between optimism and hope. Of course, I had to ask the obvious question first! Here’s my conversation with Dr. Rozell (also known as Libby):
Jennifer: “Do you talk to yourself?”
Libby: “Yes, everybody does. We do it every moment of every day. We do it to explain what’s happening to us, to explain why people around us are acting a certain way, why this, why that…it’s just a constant process of talking to ourselves. We spend a lot of energy on these inner conversations. For example, if our spouse is short with us, we immediately begin an internal conversation to explain it—‘Oh, he’s having a bad day,’ or ‘Man, he’s a jerk!’ or ‘What did I do to make him mad?’ “
Jennifer: “Does that constant self talk have an impact?”
Libby: “Most people get in a pattern of talking to themselves in the negative. Like, if the spouse is short, they think, ‘I’m just unworthy to be treated kindly.’ Instead, they could think, ‘Hey, he’s having a bad day, which has nothing to do with me.’ ”
Jennifer: “Why do you think that is the case?”
Libby: “Psychologists say that at least half of our personalities are inherited, so it’s hard to know where to draw the line. We, as children, listen and learn from our parents. We tend to follow the patterns of thinking that they had. Psychologists say it is usually the parent we spent the most time with who has the most influence. So if your mother engaged in a lot of negative self talk, then you might be inclined to do the same.”
Libby then recounted a great story from the book Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman, to illustrate her point. She told of a mom who went to a grocery store with her young daughter. After shopping, they returned to their car where they discovered, to their dismay, that someone had rammed a shopping cart into the side of their brand new vehicle! As the five-year-old daughter looked to her mom, the mother exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! I knew I shouldn’t have parked there! Why did I do that?” rather than saying, “What schmuck did that to my car?” The mom, through her self talk, told her daughter that even though it was a random event, it was still her fault. The real damage was not to the car–it was to the daughter–because through her mom’s response, she learned to create her own pessimistic self talk.
Jennifer: “So, if this self talk we engage in is learned, modeled, etc., can it be unlearned or remodeled?”
Libby: “Absolutely! Life can be explained many ways, and we can choose which explanation we are going to believe. People who tend to be negative grab those negative explanations. Those people must teach themselves to consider the other alternative. If you are prone to be negative, you must catch yourself and consider your opposite impulse. You must entertain other options and explanations for the events in your life. When a spouse is short, think, ‘He’s having a bad day,’ rather than always thinking, ‘He doesn’t love me.’ It will help break the habit of always grabbing the negative first.”
Jennifer: “Are you describing optimism?”
Libby: “I’m describing learned optimism. To be a pessimist means that whenever something bad happens, you blame yourself, and if something good happens, you give everybody else the credit! To learn optimism, you make great effort to entertain positive explanations and anticipate positive outcomes.”
Jennifer: “How long does that process usually take?”
Libby: “It begins with recognition and then continues with reinforcement. You can be pessimistic in some areas of your life and optimistic in other areas. For example, you may be an optimist when it comes to your work life, and a real pessimist when it comes to your relationships. The cycle begins to break when you recognize in which areas you are pessimistic. “
Jennifer: “Do you see hope and optimism as the same thing?”
Libby: “Almost one and the same. Because when you’re optimistic, you have hope. And when you are pessimistic, you are hopeless!”
So, here are my take-aways from our conversation:
- Even a PhD talks to herself! What a relief!
- One of the best ways to begin to tell your soul to “Look Up” is to recognize when you are pessimistic. Recognize and reinforce the times your self talk is optimistic. Replace your hopeless chatter with hopeful soul talk.
- It’s important to examine your self talk to see if you are simply repeating the damaging self talk your parent spoke. If so, hold it captive at the door of the thought closet–it doesn’t fit, it’s not yours, and it is no longer welcome!
More on Minda Cox
In chapter 6, I shared how Minda Cox helped to broaden my view. To learn more about her story and see some of her amazing artwork, visit her website and Facebook page.
Here is the story from chapter 6, in case you need a refresher:
Phil and I took a seat outside a local coffee shop where he opened the newspaper and started to read aloud. I love it when we get to do this, but this time it brought tears.
The article he read was about a young woman named Minda Cox.
She was born in India eighteen years ago without arms or legs. After learning about Minda, her soon-to-be American mom began to secure her adoption. It took longer than planned because Minda could not provide a fingerprint for her legal papers or passport. Phil read slowly as we both choked up with emotion.
Then with surprise and delight we read on and learned that Minda is a budding artist. She cradles a brush between her chin and shoulder and paints with such talent and skill that her art is worthy of its own showing. Her artistry is impressive, but what really inspired me was a list her mom found in her backpack when she was in fourth grade. It contained 127 things she would do if she had arms or legs.
She would set her own alarm clock. Make the sign of the cross. Walk where there aren’t sidewalks. Jump with joy and clap her hands. She’d be tall.
Minda’s list helped me broaden my view. I may not be able to see, but I can use my arms and hands to set my own alarm clock and hug my kids. I may be in physical darkness, but I can walk where there aren’t sidewalks, kneel in prayer, and jump for joy. I have losses for sure. But I also have many gains. And so do you. When we look up, we broaden our view, and are able to see that our losses remind us of all that we have received.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American poet, author, essayist, and philosopher born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1803. He died in Concord, Massachusetts on April 27, 1882.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from him:
- “A friend is one before whom I may think aloud.”
- “A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.”
- “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
- “Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.”
- “Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet.”
- “Character is higher than intellect… A great soul will be strong to live, as well as to think.”
- “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
- “Don’t waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.”
- “God enters by a private door into every individual.”
- “He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.”
- “Insist on yourself; never imitate… Every great man is unique.”
- “Let not a man guard his dignity, but let his dignity guard him.”
- “People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.”
- “The ancestor of every action is a thought.”
- “The key to every man is his thought. Sturdy and defying though he look, he has a helm which he obeys, which is the idea after which all his facts are classified. He can only be reformed by showing him a new idea which commands his own.”
- “The only gift is a portion of thyself.”
So often when I become anxious in my thoughts, I can find God’s peace when I speak Scripture to my soul. Here are some verses that calm my soul when my thoughts threaten to overwhelm me… I pray that they help you too!
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.
Isaiah 26:12 LORD, You establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished You have done for us.
Isaiah 32:17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
Isaiah 53:5 But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.
John 14:27 “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 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Strategies for Anger Management
If it gets hot in your thought closet from time to time, I understand. It gets hot in my thought closet sometimes, too. Here are some things I do to help keep the temperature down. Maybe they will help you, as well.
My Anger Management Key Words:
- Shock: When something happens or someone says something that makes us mad, what happens immediately is not our choice. Our bodies react along with our brains! Usually our hearts race, our breathing becomes shorter, and our muscles become tense. Your brain gives your body a command to flood itself with adrenaline. Voices may start shouting in your head, “She thinks I’m stupid!” or “How dare he do that to me?The first way I approach managing my anger is to recognize the shock factor. It’s real. We feel it physically; we feel it emotionally. When I clue in to the fact that I just got jolted–shocked and alarmed–by the anger bug, I am able to recognize my autonomic response, detect the voices pounding on the door of my thought closet, and…breathe! Really, I take a deep breath. I try to relax. Since it is really hard to grab those racing thoughts, I try to quietly wait until the voice of reason is louder. That leads to the next key word.
- Spock: Remember the steady, non-emotional Vulcan from Star Trek? Well, I am not suggesting our Spock response is without emotion; rather, it’s with controlled emotion. Respond with a neutral comment such as, “I have no idea how to respond to that,” or “I am hurt and angry right now; I will respond in a minute”.Most Spock responses begin with “I” rather than “you”. This provides an opportunity for clarification rather than going into immediate combat! It also makes you a team member (rather than an adversary) with the person who has angered you. It’s tough, I know. I’ve failed plenty of times with this one. But when I apply it, it works, and it leads well into choice three-the third key word.
- Knock: Appeal to the other person–enter into their perspective. Probe as if you are an ally searching for the same hidden treasure. Asking– rather than telling–is a good way to knock. The goal of “knocking” is to use our words to cross a threshold rather than build a barrier. Warning: it doesn’t mean that you become a doormat, though, and that means you must pay attention to the next key word.
- Lock: Secure your position. Stand up for yourself. If you are able to remain calm and think rationally, you can do this without being defensive. And that leads to the last key word…
- Stock: Take stock of what just happened. Assess the situation. Was the other person justified? Were you justified? Did you handle it well? How could you handle a similar conflict in the future? What was the cause?
The important thing I must always remember when it comes to managing my temper and anger is that it is my responsibility. I don’t use phrases anymore like, “You really make me mad”. The fact is that I choose to become angry; I choose to fly off the handle. I can choose to be calm. We really can be angry and “sin not” as the Bible says. Remembering the progression of SHOCK, SPOCK, KNOCK, LOCK and STOCK really helps me keep it cool in the thought closet!
Looking Back: My Old Family Photos
Photos are a great way to tell our souls to look back. To get the fun started, here are some of my personal family photos.
I read an article online that gave five simple steps for improving your memory. The steps are rather simple–easy to remember! So, here’s what I learned from Murdo Macleod, a writer for Scotland’s Daily Record, on improving your memory:
- Use your imagination: If you lay your keys down in the kitchen next to the toaster, take a second to imagine them dancing and jingling as if they were about to jump in with the bread! You will be surprised how “seeing” a picture in your mind is easier to recall than remembering details.
Another way to use your imagination is to add a little music and poetry to your life! The next time you need to remember a name, repeat (silently to yourself, if he’s standing there) his name with a rhyme. For example; “Bill, Bill, I hope he’s not a pill!” or make a connection like, “Tyler…TEXAS!”
- Practice: I learned while taking piano lessons that practice doesn’t make perfect– practice makes permanent! If you practice using and challenging your memory, your brain will get used to it and be more willing to cooperate when you try to recall something. Repeating simple memory teasers like naming the fifty states or trying to recall old phone numbers will sharpen your memory.
- Eat healthy: Yes, lunch can improve your memory! Well, it will if your lunch is full of anti-oxidants. Research has shown that a diet full of anti-oxidants (which are found in fruits and vegetables) actually helps your brain. So why don’t you grab a carrot and keep reading!
- Exercise your body: According to Murdo Macleod, exercise not only boosts your memory, but it also helps you think faster. The brain’s processing speed slows down as you age. The older you get, the harder it is to come up with names and numbers on demand. Staying physical fit and active helps your brain stay fit and active, and that will help you access the memories you’ve stored in there.
- Exercise you brain: Play some word games. Read challenging books. Learn a second language. Take music lessons. Do something to challenge your brain!
Besides the obvious ways to challenge your brain, try doing some simple tasks “other-handed.” If you are right-handed, try brushing your hair with your left hand. If you are left-handed, write your name with your right hand. Your hair may not look good and your name may be illegible, but your brain will have been strengthened! Anything that challenges your brain will help maximize your memory!
So, practice what you just read. Say the five ways to improve your memory out loud!
How to Write a Psalm of Gratitude
Form criticism or “analysis of forms” is the scholarly name for the field of study that analyzes the composition and structure of psalms. Many psalms were written with patterns that reflect the psalmist’s flow of thought, specific themes and compositional techniques.
It helps us understand the different forms of the Psalms when we learn that the form of a psalm is related to its function. For example, a Psalm of Lament expresses pain and asks God for help. It tends to follow a certain pattern in the way it addresses God. It then usually presents the psalmist’s problems and petitions to God, and finally confirms the writer’s trust in God. When we understand this pattern (or form) of the psalm, we can then understand the particular function of the psalm.
The same form applies to a Psalm of Thanksgiving. The function of a Thanksgiving Psalm is to praise God for something He has done, and to worship Him through sincere expressions of gratitude. The Hebrew word for Psalms of Thanksgiving is Todah. It’s not directly equivalent to “thanks,” but it’s translated that way when adapted to English.
We must be mindful that todah isn’t simply an expression of thanks after the psalmist says “please.” Rather it includes deep dependence on God, worship through gratitude, and praise for God’s goodness. Giving thanks is only one facet of todah–and it is a way to express praise–but the real purpose of todah is to recognize God as the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Todah Psalms are meant to be confessions of God’s good character rather than just well written Christian thank-you notes!
The structure of a Todah Psalm is not always rigid. They do not all follow a specific form; however, some psalms showcase the fundamentals better than others. The psalmists obviously felt great freedom in composing these praises and prayers, and so should you and I as we attempt to write a Psalm of Thanksgiving to God.
So, here’s the basic structure of a Psalm of Thanksgiving. You can use it as a path to follow, but remember…it’s not a tightrope–it’s a four-lane highway with no guardrails!
Thanksgiving or Todah Psalms:
- Opening statement: This is a summary of the psalmist’s (your) testimony. It usually includes remembering how the psalmist asked God for help, and recounting how God intervened.
- A description of the Psalmist’s (your) experience: This account includes restating your original problem, your plea for help, and God’s provision or deliverance. This is the meaty part of the psalm where you don’t write as a reporter with a “just the facts, Ma’am” mentality, but you paint a picture with your words. What did your experience feel like? What was your strongest emotion during the circumstance? What was your life like during the time of the problem and during the time of the provision?
- Your final conclusion: Worship and praise God by giving thanks. The psalmist did this not only by saying “thank you” to God, but also by extolling the character of God (worship), and exalting the works of God (praise).
Psalm 30 is a great example of a Psalm of Thanksgiving. Check it out here:
A Psalm; a Song at the Dedication of the House. A Psalm of David.
1 I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my enemies rejoice over me. 2 O LORD my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me. 3 O LORD, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit. 4 Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name. 5 For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning. 6 Now as for me, I said in my prosperity, “I will never be moved.” 7 O LORD, by Your favor You have made my mountain to stand strong; You hid Your face, I was dismayed. 8 To You, O LORD, I called, and to the Lord I made supplication: 9 “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it declare Your faithfulness? 10 Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me; O LORD, be my helper.” 11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, 12 That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
[Other Examples of Thanksgiving Psalms are Psalms 34, 40, 103, 118, and 138.]
If you feel comfortable, please let your “soul talkin’ friends” read your psalm. It will be inspiring, and it will give each of us great thoughts to place in our thought closets!
Fun Ways to Divert, Withdraw and Abandon
By Becky Williams
In Genesis 2:2-3, God enjoyed a day of rest. In fact, He even “BLESSED the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Yes, the God who created time itself actually set aside specific time to enjoy rest. As Jennifer points out in Chapter Nine, we all need to “Divert daily. Withdraw weekly. Abandon annually.” That sage advice is from Rick Warren who has simply grasped the importance of rest that God has been trying to teach mankind since the very beginning.
Invest a few moments into reading these following ideas for finding ways to rest. You’ll be glad you did.
Divert Daily: Each day that God allows you to wake up, take fifteen minutes, an hour, or whatever you can get to rest, but please take something! Enjoy a soothing cup of your favorite drink. There’s great comfort in wrapping your hands around a warm mug and taking a deep breath.
Are temperatures too high outside for a hot drink? Sit in the sun for a moment, soak up some healthy vitamin D, and close your eyes, thinking of nothing else but you and Jesus. What about finding rest in the winter? Pull a blanket out of the dryer and snuggle up on the couch with your favorite book or magazine.
Withdraw Weekly. Once a week, take several hours to retreat for some quality time alone. Try taking a good book to a quiet café or go picnicking in peace under your favorite tree. For those who are constantly ‘on the go,’ don’t forget about your feet! You can either lace up your walking shoes for a healthy jaunt or treat your toes to a new coat of polish. Investing in a new pair of comfortable socks is also a way to treat your feet even while you’re running around.
Abandon Annually. Need some alone time without the kids (or co-workers)? Stash away a little money each month and then pick a day or weekend each year to spend at the spa or on a mini-vacation. Do something different… Do you dress up for work? Dress in comfy clothes for a day instead! Are you aching for the chance to dress up? Wear that smart outfit that you’ve been waiting months to wear. If you book a hotel room all to yourself in a nearby city, go out to eat at that restaurant you’ve never had time to visit. Or simply relax in the hotel room and order in room service, while watching a favorite movie.
Or you could take advantage of God’s good earth that is just a short drive away, like the beach, the mountains, the rolling hills, or whatever is close by. Even a bale of hay can be relaxing when you’re sitting on top of one at night, watching the stars in the clear country sky.
When Christ walked the earth, He invited us to “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” (Matthew 11:29).
Here’s one last tip: While you rest, take a moment to look at the stress in your life and search out any resentment or sin you may be harboring because of that stress. Then confess it to God and live free in Him (John 8:36).
Seeking God includes finding rest. It’s one of His promised prizes for His children that you should accept!
P.S. If your moments of relaxation are hard-pressed, then you can sympathize with others who are also bearing a busy load. Try engaging in a daily distraction of helping someone else relax. Can you baby-sit for the afternoon for free? Can you cook dinner for a family so that a hectic home maker can retreat to her own meal somewhere else in assurance that her family is taken care of?
Singing the National Anthem
In chapter 10, you heard my story about singing the national anthem. Here are the photos I promised to share!
A Song That Keeps Me Marching On
This is one of my favorite “press on” songs that I sing to my soul. I love it!
My Savior My God
Aaron Shust, From the album Anything Worth Saying
I am not skilled to understand
What God has willed, what God has planned
I only know at His right hand
Stands one who is my Savior
I take Him at His word and deed
Christ died to save me; this I read
And in my heart I find a need
Of Him to be my savior
That He would leave His place on high
And come for sinful man to die
You count it strange, so once did I
Before I knew my Savior
My Savior loves, My Savior lives
My Savior’s always there for me
My God: He was, my God; He is
My God is always gonna be
Yes, living, dying, let me bring
My strength, my solace from this spring;
That He who lives to be my King
Once died to be my Savior
That He would leave His place on high
And come for sinful man to die
You count it strange, so once did I
Before I knew my Savior
Aaron also has a great background story about why he wrote this song. Take a moment to read about the history of My Savior My God on his website.
Quotes on Lifting Up God
The following quotes are some of my favorites! Pondering them helps me as I do my frequent “heart exams.” I think they will help you as you do a heart exam, also. (See Chapter 11 for encouragement on checking your heart.)
So, ask your soul to chill out, tune in, and then check out these interesting thoughts from some interesting thinkers.
“Anyone will be unhappy until he recognizes his true calling.” ~ Unknown
“Be harsh with yourself at times.” ~ Seneca, Letters from a Stoic
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~ Carl Jung
“Humility is to make a right estimate of oneself.” ~ Harry Truman
What do you think about those quotes? Which one hits you? Ask your soul to be honest… Are you happy? Are you humble? Those quotes might help you detect who is in the center of your thought closet.
Forward by Beth Moore
The following is the Lessons I Learned in the Dark book foreword by Beth Moore that I mentioned in chapter 11 . . .
I remember the first time I saw Jennifer Rothschild. She was warming up on the keyboard in preparation for praise and worship preceding the message I had been asked to give at the event. I always look forward to meeting and interacting with the vocalist or worship leader where I speak because we are undoubtedly partners in ministry for that measure of time. I recall doing an immediate double take when I first saw Jennifer. I was oblivious to any challenges because I did not know her story and in no way could have guessed in a simple glance.
I have never tried to articulate what I found so unique about Jennifer until preparing to write this foreword. At the time I first saw Jennifer, I simply would have told you that something was wonderfully different about her. Now as I write in retrospect and with the aid of a few more years and a bit more experience, I can identify more clearly what I saw. She was so young, so fresh and beautiful, yet she had a knowing in her eyes that seemed unusual for one her age.
After I heard Jennifer’s testimony, I had an “aha” moment and knew why her maturity exceeded her years. Not only did her eyes reveal a knowing; there was something indefinably chosen about her. From this vantage point I now know that I was seeing Jennifer not so differently from how Jennifer sees most all the time–with eyes of the Spirit. I saw the invisible hand of God upon her. And I’ve never failed to see it since.
Years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties, I attended a training seminar taught by Florence Littauer for prospective Christian speakers and communicators. I have laughed many times about receiving the seminar brochure in the mail because I wasn’t on a mailing list and had little familiarity with Florence at the time. I’m convinced I received the application because I was pitiful and, in view of what God called me to do, He knew I needed emergency speaking assistance. I’m pretty sure He addressed the brochure Himself. I am definitely on His mailing list–even when I’ve tried to move. I learned a principle at the seminar that I still use as a plum line for every message I prepare to speak or write. According to Florence each person must ask herself two critical questions before addressing any group:
“Do I have anything to say?”
“Does anyone need to hear it?”
Beloved, Jennifer Rothschild has something to say. And all of us need to hear it.
Since the first time I saw Jennifer she has become a mother of two, a seasoned communicator, and a singer who can practically sing glory down on your head. Yet she still has that same freshness and graceful beauty that struck such a deep chord in my soul years ago. To my delight, Jennifer and her husband are also tremendous fun. I have an affinity for believers who don’t view godliness and good humor as exclusive terms.
That’s why I knew I was safe to make a spontaneous phone call to her home after seeing a photo spread of her and her family in a Christian magazine last year. The message I left on her voice mail went something like this, “Okay, young lady, I’m not about to leave it to your husband to tell you how you look in that layout. Men don’t tell nearly enough details. Let me just tell you that you are stunning!” I then proceeded to tell her how sassy and cute her hair, makeup, and outfits were. It was strictly a girl moment, but I had a feeling she’d get a kick out of it. Then I read the article. And cried. Somehow Jennifer possesses that rare, God-given combination of lightness and depth. Grace and truth. Just like the One who called her.
Lessons I Learned in the Dark is gripping. I don’t know the person to whom it has nothing to say. Jennifer Rothschild is the real thing. She knows what she’s talking about. She does not have the luxury of telling and retelling a testimony from years past of challenges long since resolved. She lives in present tense, making daily choices to step over a plethora of seen and unseen obstacles. Jennifer is a living breathing testimony still actively being written by the hand of God. I have a feeling this book won’t be the last we hear from her. I am honored to recommend Jennifer Rothschild and her stirring new book to you. May God grant us all the gift of eyes that truly see.
– Beth Moore