Hey Man…Sometimes You Gotta Empty Your Cup Out!

As it turns out, my wife and I have successfully implanted a real zest for living life to the fullest into our children.  Not too long ago we had one of those famous, intense, passionate Washington discussions about that very subject!  During these heated debates it is not uncommon for the discussion to go on for two or three hours.  Everyone has something to say and no-one is shy about voicing their opinions.  This particular debate came about because one of my sons (who shall remain nameless) was vehemently arguing his point that people were basically motivated by their own self-interest and that life never really ventured any deeper than that!  We disagreed adamantly, arguing that life was in its most basic form spiritual and that there is something behind our physical life that forms the basis for our true motivation and desire.  Sometimes it seemed we really agreed with each other.  Other times we disagreed, while presenting illustration after illustration to make our respective cases.  Then my other, slightly older son said some words; true words that cut through all the arguments and dissension.  As soon as he said them, I knew those words were God-inspired!  He said, “Hey man, sometimes you gotta empty your cup out!”  He followed by explaining that when you are young you think you have things figured out, until the day comes when you realize you don’t have things figured out.  For that reason, you have to be willing to “empty out” your cup from time to time and take a fresh look at things.  In other words, you have to stay humble about life in order to keep learning, or else you and your full cup ain’t gonna grow and progress!

Wow, now there is a lesson you want to hold on to!  Many times in life we get stuck not by the things we don’t know, but instead by the things we think we know, that we don’t know!   Think about some of the problems that you are currently facing in your life.  Not the problem that came up yesterday, the problems that you have been carrying around for a while.  Those things that you don’t like; wish you could change; those issues that seem to have no solution.  Why do you suppose those problems are sticking around for so long?  They hang around because their cause isn’t what you think (and think and think and think) it is!   The A, B, and C that produced that D may not be… Empty your cup out!  As long as you pridefully hold on to your theory (A+B+C = D, damn it!) is as long as your problem persists.  A great man once said, “Choose your ruts wisely, you may be in them for a long time!”   A rut in the dirt road is formed because the car’s wheels ride down the same path over and over and over again.  Soon a rut is formed and that deep groove is real easy to fall into.  If you try to drive out of the rut, you get sucked back in.  The solution?  Take a different road!  Don’t take the same road and by the intensity of YOUR will fight the wheel with all of YOUR might try to get up and out!  It ain’t gonna happen.  You lost before you started because the cause wasn’t what you thought it was!

God tells us all throughout His Word to be humble or to have humility.  Not humble as the world defines it, mind you.  The world (code word-the adversary) defines humble as something similar to a doormat that anyone can freely wipe his feet on.  “You gotta stay humble brotha!”  “Don’t get too confident man!”  “Now don’t you start braggin!”  In other words, stay average and dull and lifeless and get back in line!  That folks, ain’t it!  True humility simply means that you don’t mind emptying your cup out from time to time because you are willing to believe that life and God are bigger and wiser than you are and at times you need some help.  There’s no shame in that, is there?  What if that problem you cannot seem to overcome was actually designed by someone (or something) and craftily put into place, then rehearsed over and over again with the result that now you cannot seem to overcome it?  Well, all the adamacy and resolve in the world isn’t going to get you over the top, because the top isn’t where you think it is!  You need a fresh look.  You need to clear out of your mind what you think you know and be willing to learn again.  That’s what I love about children.  They are ripe little sponges for learning.  Have you ever noticed how happy they are?  They are interested in everything.  everything is exciting, fascinating.  Well, as adults we haven’t exhausted our learning, no, not even close.  What we have done is shut down our minds, concluded our cups were full and closed ourselves off to the greater realities in life.  Ladies and gentleman, you have got to empty your cups out!  Here’s one of my all time favorite verses about humility:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding…Proverbs 3:5

Trust in who?  Yourself?  Your wisdom?  Your insights?  Haha and lean not unto YOUR OWN understanding.  You see, your own understanding is where you got beat!  Me too!  The adversary knows that if he appeals to our ego and our pride, he can beat us pretty easily.

There’s a whole world of living life to the fullest that is out there for you!  There is excitement, joy and incredible discovery waiting out there, just for you.  Don’t spend anymore time and energy trying to solve everything and figure everything out on your own!  Look outside of yourself and what you think you know!  Look to God because He is the great spiritual reality behind all that there is in this life.

And remember “young-un” sometimes you gotta empty your cup out!


Controlling Your Mind…

I bet when you read the title about “Mind Control” it made you flinch a little right?  Do you remember in the 70’s when people were all concerned about “brainwashing?”  The basic idea was that when you got into some group (i.e. cult) the members would feed your mind certain thoughts and inundate you with those thoughts and end up brainwashing you!  Then, theoretically, you needed someone to “deprogram” you and get you back to thinking soundly.  (Well, supposedly soundly!)  However, ironically, millions of people are brainwashed every day and are sadly, completely unaware of it.  The medium is of course the media, which feeds you a steady diet of what to think and how.  The media says it and voilà, we accept it as true.  We generally accept what is reported as true because we really have no idea on our own and so we are easy to fool!

Do you remember the song by Pink Floyd?  “We don’t need no education…”  “We don’t need no thought control…”  If you have ever heard the song, you probably heard that the band was referring to the stifling control of the British education system and its attempts to make everyone mold into the same conformity  (Just another brick in the wall).  Whatever your interpretation, there’s an important distinction to make here.  In order for any cleverly devised error to be successful, that error must be closely aligned to the truth.  Blatant error deceives very few, but subtle error fools almost everyone!  When Floyd sang the words, “We don’t need no thought control!” – those words were not accurate according to the Bible.  But, this is where it gets tricky.  What we don’t need is for someone or something else to control our minds.  Maybe that is what Floyd meant, maybe not.  But, we absolutely do need thought control!  In fact, we need to control our own thoughts more than any other thing we can control.  The key is, “we need to control our own thoughts.”  There is nothing evil about you controlling your own thoughts because that is the ONLY way you will ever tap into God’s power.  There is everything evil about allowing something outside of you to control your thoughts.  Can you see the subtlety involved here?  Mind control when it is you controlling your mind is good.  Mind control when something else controls your mind is bad.  Even the whole scary idea of brainwashing has its own good and bad.  I don’t know about you, but I need to wash certain parts of my brain.  But, I don’t need you, the media, my family, my friends, to wash it; that’s my job!

In order to access God’s power in this life, we have to control our minds.  Failure to control our thoughts leads to defeat over and over and over again!   Here’s the Word on the subject:

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;  II Corinthians 10:5

There it is my friends!  Imaginations are reasoning thoughts that exalt themselves against what God says.  And, then…dadadadada ~ bringing into captivity EVERY THOUGHT to the obedience of Christ.  That’s how Jesus rolled!  He controlled his thoughts.  If you notice most people, and sure, you might be a part of the group “most people,” they do not control their thinking.  No-one has ever taught them that they even need to do it.  So, human nature is to just think whatever comes to mind and go with it, so to speak.  Now that might be okay if there weren’t forces working against us all the time to bring us down to a lower level of life than the one God intended for us.  But, those forces do exist and they are all around us.  I don’t have to tell you that right?  You are having a great day, feeling good and excited about life and then someone says something or does something, or we read something, or we hear something that changes our thoughts and back down we go!  Or maybe we remember some past wrong we did, or rehearse some past wrong we suffered, or start dwelling on some wrongs occurring presently, or start focusing on everything that is wrong, not what we planned, blah blah blah, blah blah blah etc…  End result?  Defeat!  Life less than the life God intended.  No power, no happiness, no love, no excitement, no enthusiasm, nothing!  They key to a successful life; the key to a life more than abundant; the key to living with overflowing joy and peace is found in controlling your mind!  You have to pay attention to what you are thinking about.  You might be very surprised at where your mind is going when you start paying attention.  But, it doesn’t stop there.  Then you must take your mind to task and change those negative thoughts to “just some good thoughts…”  Don’t ignore those bad thoughts, confront them; challenge them!  Decide you aren’t going to certain places in your mind.  Let your past hurts remain in the past.  Stop dredging up all that bitterness and poison.  Forgive, forget and look forward to the future.

It may sound impossible to control your thoughts, but it is not only possible, it is necessary.  The only way to tap into God’s power in your life (and, if you are like me, you could use a little power every now and again 🙂 …) is to get your mind lined up with His mind (so to speak).   Get rid of all that darkness and walk in the light.  And then God, who is light, will begin to show you what He really had in mind when He invented life!

Don’t take my word for it people, try it out  for yourself!  Just do a “test day” and see how you feel at the end of that day.  I promise you that if you become very serious about what goes through your mind and what doesn’t get to go through your mind, it will change your life.  It’s not about ignoring problems or pretending negative things don’t exist, but rather keeping your head in the light where the solutions start to show up!

Actually, “we do need some education and we do need some thought control!”

And, hey as a teacher, I won’t leave them kids alone!!!

What to do when your mind is unraveling…

Have you ever felt like your mind was running all over the place?  You know what I mean, right?  It’s those times when your brain is filled with so many thoughts; many of them anxious thoughts and you can’t seem to get things settled down.  Have you lost your marbles?  Why does that happen to us?  What goes on throughout a day or a week or a year that makes us feel so unsettled and unsure and how can we get back to feeling peaceful, focused and secure?

You might not realize it, but God has given us complete control over our minds.  God will never take over our thoughts or for that matter, replace our thoughts with other thoughts.  He just doesn’t roll like that!  Whenever you hear someone say, “God took away the urge to…” it is never true.  God will certainly help us in life’s challenges.  He will clue us into certain variables and factors that we weren’t aware of, but He will not take over our minds, no matter how bad things may have gotten.  So, what can you do to get your mind under control?  Maybe a better place to start would be to understand our responsibility with regard to our thoughts.

There is a little jewel of truth in the Bible encapsulated in the following verse:

Keep thy heart more than anything that is guarded; for out of it are the issues of life.  Proverbs 4:23

The one great responsibility we have in life with regard to our heart is to guard it!  The heart refers to the innermost part of our minds.  The heart is where our believing (positive and negative) comes from.  Our heart is made up of the thoughts we think the most consistently.  Fleeting thoughts aren’t the issue, but rather the thoughts we hold on to; the ones we hold most dear.  And, amazingly, those thoughts that filter down into our heart form the basis of our believing and actually determine how our lives turn out!  With that being said, God admonishes us to guard our hearts.  We guard them like a soldier guards a garrison.  We don’t turn our minds loose or let them go just any-ol-where.  We guard them.  We watch over them like parents watch over their children.  Their kids aren’t allowed to go to certain places.  So, the basis of a peaceful, focused mind is found in controlling our thoughts.  I’m not talking mind control!  I’m talking you control your mind!  (Okay, glad we got that part settled…)

Now, let’s just imagine that we were unaware of that little tidbit or maybe knew it intellectually but failed to carry it out successfully.  So now what do we do?  What do we do with ourselves when we are all full of anxiety?  Well first perhaps we should know that anxiety is misplaced fear.  Full on fear has a cause that we are intimately aware of yet perhaps still controlled by it.  Anxiety is a little different.  Anxiety is the fruit of some scary thoughts that we failed to confront and now they are scurrying around in our minds like cockroaches.  Anxiety doesn’t seem to have a clear-cut cause that we can challenge.  I digress…~Have you ever been thinking something vaguely and then felt your mood change and then tried to go back and figure out what you were thinking that caused it?  Haha I suppose we all have.  Anxiety is like that.  Often we will have difficulty seeking out and destroying that errant thought (or those errant thoughts) so what should we do?  The very best thing we can do is to control our next thought and our next one and our next one.  There’s really no point to wearing yourself out with endless analysis.  I digress again…~ Have you ever stopped to consider that all that time spent in analyzing your persistent problems is pointless?  Oh I don’t mean analyzing what the problem is or what you need to do about something.  I mean that analysis that travels over the same territory again and again and again always arriving at the same place…no answer, no solution.  Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”  Okay back to the point…

We all have a fundamental responsibility to control or take control of our thoughts.  When things go south on us and we feel lost, we need to take our minds back by the reins and decide what we will and will not think about.  Certain thoughts produce fear and anxiety no matter how open-minded you may think you are.  Stop thinking those thoughts.  Some thoughts tempt us to consider some awful life-threatening potentiality.  Do not consider them.  Resist.  Stop thinking those thoughts.  Some thoughts try to convince us that we won’t be prepared for some dreadful event unless we give it thought.  Don’t take the bait.  Don’t think those thoughts.  Instead think thoughts that are good, useful and profitable for you.  Calling yourself a blankety, blank idiot because you messed something up is not good, useful or profitable for you.  Spending time pondering all the things that are not right about you isn’t good, useful or profitable for you.  I digress a third time…~ Have you ever met anyone that was made stronger by biting, hurtful criticism?  NO!  Strong people decide to stop listening to it or telling it to themselves!  (Now you are getting it) You want the best thoughts?  Think about yourself in the way that God thinks about you (yes, the Bible folks…):

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  Jeremiah 29:11

The only way that you and I are going to be successful at this game of life is by thinking good thoughts; just some good thoughts.  Your success in life is determined by the things you think about the most.  Get rid of fear! Destroy anxiety!  Unscramble your mind, gather the loose threads and get all of your marbles back!   Decide that your mind is your mind and think thoughts that are good, useful and profitable to you.  Make your mind your friend!  If you persist in this and get serious about controlling your thoughts you will get an odd, unusual feeling on the inside.  It’s called peace of mind.  And, you will find that God was there the whole time waiting for you to do your part!  That is real life my friends!  That’s a life worth living…

It’s there for the taking people ~ with just some good thoughts!