What If You Thought?

In the movie, Casablanca, Vichy France’s prefect of police (Captain Renault) tells his men to “round up the usual suspects” when a Nazi officer is shot. That famous line is something I tell myself:

“Karen, whenever your thoughts go wild, round up the usual suspects.”

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For a long time, I thought my usual suspects were fear and worry because those negative emotions robbed my joy, woke me up at night, and prevented me from stepping out of my comfort zone. Then I realized my thoughts were the culprit, instigating all kinds of wild imaginings especially over my kids’ safety.

What if my toddler chokes on a hotdog? What if a stranger steals my kid? What if my teenage child gets injured in a car accident? What if my husband and I die, who’ll raise our kids?

My children grew up, but the wild imaginings continued. I felt more vulnerable with age, and realized how little control (if any) I had over the well being of others. I’d also witnessed enough tragedy in the news and among friends to justify my what ifs.

I told myself worry and fear couldn’t prevent bad things from happening. I told myself worry and fear were a waste of mental energy if these trial weren’t going to happen. I told myself fear is not from the Lord. But all that self talk didn’t help because I’d failed to recognize the source of my worry and fear.

Finally, someone listened to my wild imaginings and said, “You need to capture your thoughts so you’ll experience God’s peace.”

Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?

I understood the impact thoughts have on our moods, words, and actions. I’d often told my children, “Think happy thoughts.” I’d quote Philippians 4:8. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

So what was I thinking?

If I was going to capture my thoughts, I had to recognize my malicious thoughts so I could round them up at the first sign of goosebumps or dread. When a fearful moment arrived, I envisioned minuscule soldiers stationed in my mind—arresting that terrifying thought before it got out of hand. No visitation allowed. I refused to let my mind entertain that thought.

 

police-306317_1280But the nagging thoughts hollered:
What if your negative thoughts are valid?
What if your worst nightmares come true?

That’s when I mustered my second defense. It wasn’t enough to capture my thoughts, I had to renew my mind by reading God’s Word. Then, I challenged myself. “You like to dwell on what ifs. Think about this:

What if you controlled your thoughts instead of allowing your thoughts to control you?
What if you believed God is able to do more than you can imagine instead of focusing on your wild imaginings?
What if you believed God’s promises to provide, comfort, and guide you instead of wondering how you’ll cope?
What if you trusted God’s sovereignty instead of worrying about the future?
What if you believed God’s grace is sufficient even in your worst nightmare?
What if you believed that nothing—no sin or failure—can separate you from God’s love?
What if you believed to be absent from the flesh is to be present with the Lord?
What if you gave thanks in everything for this is God’s will for you?

Would these thoughts, these mind-blowing truths, alleviate your worries and fears? Would they free you to live? If so, round up the usual suspects–even in this moment!

 

Images: Pixabay.com

 

 

No If, And, or But

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“I love you, but…”

Has anyone said that to you?

For me, instead of owning the love, I camp on the words that follow that statement because it seems the person’s love (or approval) is contingent on something I do or don’t do.

When I raised kids, I probably said the same thing. “I love you, but . . . you need to clean your room, do your homework, behave.”

I assumed God spoke that way to me. “I love you, but . . .”

But, what? What do I need to do? As a performance-driven, people pleaser, I turned myself inside out to find the answer.

Do I need to earn my salvation?

No, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).

Do I need to earn God’s love?

No, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Maybe I need to be a better Christian so I don’t lose God’s love.

And the Loving God who calls me “Beloved” assures me, “Nothing can separate you from my love” (Romans 8:35-39).

You see, I spent years learning God’s Word, but I had to believe God.

Imagine my relief and the mind-blowing joy to know that I know—God loves. There is no if, and, or but!

Hold onto this truth no matter what your feelings or circumstances suggest otherwise. Even in this…coming new year!

R U Frustrated or Grateful?

God's provision

Did you know?

 

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Do You Touch and Go?

I hadn’t seen the woman’s blog post in months. I clicked on her gravatar. Searched for her website. And discovered it had been deactivated. Did she get tired of blogging or did something happen?

Weeks later, she liked a post. I searched again and found her email address. “Miss your blogs,” I wrote. “Hope you’re well.”

The woman immediately responded, and we had a heart-to-heart talk via email. There was no need to break the ice. We’d been reading each other’s blogs…which had become windows into our lives and souls…for several years.

Social media doesn’t have to be a one-way street—people stalking one another.  Hitting like…or not.

It can be the means to celebrate people’s victories. Mourn their losses with them. Pray for them.

Not everyone is convinced. I have a friend who chooses one-on-one quality time rather than “touch and go relationships.” I understand. I love looking in someone’s eyes rather than a computer screen. Holding hands to pray.

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However, despite the cons, social media has enlarged my heart to an ever-growing circle of friends. I’ve …

Found long lost friends.
Corresponded more often than an annual Christmas card.
Developed new friendships online that I’ve met through mutual friends.
Kept in touch with students’ lives.
Seen the world through the eyes of people from other countries.
Been inspired by folks across the globe who also love Jesus.

Regardless of age, gender, or culture, they’re just like me. Learning how to navigate this maze called life.

Some days, their posts provide the only good news that I hear.

For we’re inundated with round the clock news which points out everything wrong with this world. Highlights evil. Warns us of disease and terror.

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What if we used social media to encourage one another instead of tongue lashing the world?

What if we used it as a means to understand one another and reach out instead of circling our wagons to protect our own interests?

I’m not suggesting rose-colored posts that pretend life is perfect. We need to be real. We want to know we’re not alone in the things we suffer or strive towards.

But thank God for the multitude of individual lights flickering in the digital world who write about….

Acts of kindness from strangers.
Folks making a positive difference.
Personal stories of redemption, healing, and grace.

The woman, who took a hiatus from blogging, used her words to encourage others and sing God’s praises. When her online presence was gone…I noticed.

Because even in the cyber world, people make a difference.

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24).

Photograph: jennywredephotography.com

What’s Your Best Day?

“That was the best day of my life,” exclaimed a little girl to her parents.

Her blond curls bounced as she skipped down the gravel pathway in her cowboy boots.

And my heart skipped with her causing me to chime in, “Me too!”

Her parents turned around and nodded. We’d just listened to a free symphony concert in the park. Notes from the William Tell Overture twirled in my head.

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Like a keepsake rose, I pressed that “best day” into my memory bank.

Do you remember one of the best days of your life?

Those sweet spots on this earthly journey when your cup runs over and it feels great to be alive.

If only we could rejoice…be happy, joyful, pleased, glad…every day.

Even on those rotten tomato days when it feels like the worse day ever.

The Bible says we should rejoice. (Psalm 118:24)

  • Rejoice because God has made this day. And He is fully present, longing to be part of our day.
  • Rejoice because inducing happy thoughts changes our perspective and makes us glad.
  • Rejoice knowing that our best days on earth don’t hold a candle to one day in God’s house. (Psalm 84:10)

That evening, I sat beneath a canopy of stars, swaying to the melodic notes of that orchestra which reached a spine-tingling crescendo, and I envisioned God’s angelic choir singing “Hallelujah. Worthy is the Lamb.”

The image gave me goosebumps.

For if that symphonic high is a glimpse of God’s glory and the joy of being in His presence one day,

Then it’s possible to rejoice today and always. (1 Thess. 5:16)

The only sad thing is…no one can make us rejoice. Choosing to be glad is up to each individual. 

Even in this moment.

When’s the Last Time You Did It?

file0001944463518“Look, Mommy, I did it!”

I couldn’t see the school playground from my front porch, but I heard the girl’s high-ptiched voice. Her audible excitement made me smile; wonder…

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Did the girl cross the monkey bar’s without falling? Swing without Mommy’s help? Do a cartwheel?

My three children are grown, but I remember their triumphant shouts whenever they accomplished a new feat.

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Victory tasted sweet; called for applause.

Even before they could vocalize their thoughts, my children’s grinning faces said “look at me” as they each learned to walk. Like a new-born colt, they’d wobble, collapse to the floor, then rise again as I cheered them onward.

One step. Two. Then four hurried steps into my outreached arms. “You did it!”

However, those baby steps enabled my children to eventually walk away from me. Off they went to school, slumber parties, summer camp, part-time jobs, college, and life. While I stood by—watching, cheering, praying—as they did it!

The hardest challenge was balancing my realistic concerns for their personal safety with their need to become independent.

For example, I had to know when to stop holding my son’s hand when we crossed the street. Then I had to stop telling him (and trust him) to look both ways before he crossed the street. Because now that my son’s away at college, I don’t even know when he crosses the street.

This summer, my son wanted to drive to San Francisco for the day. Dread swept through my stomach like shards of glass. I tried to dissuade him. Suggested public transportation as an alternative.

Why? Because the thought of navigating any huge city with heavy traffic intimidates me. I warned my son, “You can’t do it. You’re inexperienced!”

Implication: you’re incapable. Nice vote of confidence, right?

However, my fear of driving wasn’t my son’s fear. He relished the challenge. And, he did it!San-Francisco-Free-CNA-Classes3-720x325

I wonder how often parents prevent their children from trying something new or accepting a challenge due to our own fears and limitations.

When the Israelites were afaid to enter the Promised Land, Caleb responded, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Numbers 13:30)

Imagine the reaction of Astronaut Armstrong’s family when he said, “I’m going to walk on the moon.” Did they encourage him? Or say, “You’re crazy? It’s never been done!”

My friend, Angie—who became a quadriplegic—refused to think of herself as disabled; hated the word, “CAN’T.” She earned a scuba diver’s licence and swam (with assistance) in the Pacific Ocean.

I pray my children will have the same confidence, courage, and conviction of people like Caleb, Armstrong, and Angie.

In fact, when’s the last time you did something you’ve always wanted to do? Were afraid to do?

I can still hear the thrill in that little girl’s voice. “Look, Mommy, I did it!”

And you know what?

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It makes we want to taste victory too.