Beat Down…by Your Own Thoughts?

images   Recently I find myself fascinated by a book called, “The Power of Habits” by Charles Duhigg.  In the book, Duhigg talks about how we develop habits.  At first when we are after some reward, our brains are alive with activity as we process how to find the way to get a desired result.  But, once we figure out a system that leads to the prize (however small), our brain activity quiets down and habit takes over.  It’s sort of like an efficiency built into our minds to save valuable thought processes for new challenges.  As a system it makes total sense.  However, our brain makes no distinction between ‘good’ habits and ‘bad’ habits.  And, every habit started somewhere most likely in response to a perceived need.  It works like this ~ we receive some cue in our environment such as feeling tired.  We learned, perhaps long ago, that when we bite into the yummy donuts that mom brought home we received not only a delicious treat for our taste buds, but also a subconscious burst of energy.  Thus we concluded that doughnuts made us feel good (not associating the hidden, added burst of energy).  So now, based upon habits that developed long ago, once we register the cue (I’m tired) we wander into the kitchen in search of the reward ~ a doughnut.  It wasn’t necessarily hunger that sent us on our mission, but instead feeling tired and unhappy.  Thus a habit was formed, i.e. that doughnuts make us feel good.  Now a doughnut here and there isn’t a bad thing, but when, out of sheer habit, we reach for a doughnut or a cookie or some brownies every time we feel bored, sad, tired or unfulfilled, we have developed a ‘bad’ habit that makes us fat! (smile)  The problem is that the habit, now firmly entrenched, escapes our conscious mind and just sort of kicks in, in response to cues in our environment.

While every successful person has consciously and subconsciously learned good habits that helped propel them towards their successes, what happens when we have developed bad habits that serve only to defeat us day by day?  Well, because of the nature of habits, they will most likely continue until we do something different.  Let’s say that when you were very young, you learned that significant people (parents, teachers, caregivers) seemed upset with you on a consistent basis for reasons that escaped your young, developing mind.  Absent the love and encouragement you should have been receiving, you received primarily only criticism and complaint (Close your mouth!  Get out of here!  Sit down and shut up!).  Then you probably developed a bad habit of seeking how to get your reward (they seem happy with me today) by finding ways to please them (modifying your behavior) in response to the cue (you are annoying me).  The result?  A people pleaser is born.  Now, many years later in adulthood whereby you should know better, you find yourself responding to the same environmental cues with the same techniques.  You go to work and your boss ‘seems’ annoyed with you.  They haven’t said anything to you, but you have become very adept at reading cues on their faces and in their body language.  Instead of employing a healthy attitude (I’m doing the best I can and if you have an issue with me, I suppose you will bring it up…) you subconsciously kick into your habit that requires you to engage in all types of disingenuous behaviors and flattering words to ‘earn’ their approval.  Of course on the inside, you are seething because you see what you are doing, but remain unsure as to why you do it!  Bad habit = consistent defeat!  And to make matters worse, you not only engage in people pleasing but actually subconsciously seek out the scenario that you hate and thus the cycle continues…

The aforementioned scenario plays out in a thousand ways to the unsuspecting victims.  Bad habits of thought perpetuate and reproduce.  People with low self-worth didn’t come out of the factory that way.  Instead, in response to some environmental cues and unmet needs, they learned to feel bad about themselves.  They learned to not expect anything good to happen in their lives.  And when things go wrong, as they do for ALL people, they blame themselves and attribute it to the flaws and shortcomings they have been rehearsing to themselves for years and years (many of which started when they were too young to know better).  A pretty slick trick, you have to admit.  If you want to beat humans up on a consistent basis, all you have to do is talk them into developing a bad habit and then it will perpetuate itself for years to come.

So, if you find yourself unhappy, unfulfilled, depressed or just plain worn out by life, ask yourself what stories you have been telling yourself.  What are you saying to yourself that no one else can hear?  When things don’t turn out the way you planned, is it because there is really something wrong with you or is it because something out there is resisting you and thwarting you from getting the things you want in life?  All of us face obstacles to our dreams; our plans; our rewards, but the issue isn’t the obstacles but rather how we have habitually learned to think!  And, as Duhigg aptly explained, we don’t change our habits by ignoring environmental cues or by not seeking rewards, but instead we first have to recognize our habits and then seek to change the behavioral response to the cue while still providing ourselves the same rewards.

You are still going to have times that you feel down or tired or unfulfilled, that’s just life folks.  But instead of reaching for that doughnut, go for a run or turn off that TV or take a quiet bath with time to reflect on why you feel the way you do (don’t just mindlessly ignore it).  Then, think about your successes; your wonderful family or that fantastic new house you just bought.  Think about how you can change anything you don’t like if you will just give it some serious thought.  Make some plans to go in new directions and get that ol’ mind active and functioning again.  Then, go bite into that doughnut and think to yourself, life is good young fella, life is really good!

Just some habitually good thoughts…


Never Used…But Learning to Aim!

imagesCA4034UC  I find it disturbing when I read comments from members of various religious groups advising people to allow the Holy Spirit to use them; or ask God to use them to fulfill His purposes in life.  Call me crazy, but the prospect of someone or something using me is downright scary!  Submitting to God, I get; being willing and humble to learn, I get; asking God to work mightily in me, I get; asking God to teach me, I totally get… but God using me to fulfill His purposes, I don’t get!  One of the most awesome and wonderful things I love about God is that He never, ever violates our freedom of will.  Have you ever seen the bumper sticker that says, God is my co-pilot?”  Well, God isn’t going to fly your plane, I can assure you.  You have to fly your plane with God’s help.  God’s part is to keep you from crashing in whatever form that may take while helping you to master the skills involved.  We don’t ever turn over our free will to anyone else and God won’t take it over, so you do the math.  That, my friends, is a perilous path.  It is similar to when people say things like, “God took away my desire to drink or to smoke or to sin, etc.”  We should only wish it was that easy.  Instead, God works inside of us to understand the things that may have been hurting us and in that understanding we can make the necessary decisions to change the things that we need to change.  So, the first lesson here is that we can’t confuse our job with God’s job.  Life gets difficult when I’m trying to do His part or if I’m expecting Him to do my part…

I have often wondered why everyone wouldn’t seek God’s help, seeing He is so kind and helpful.  And then I think maybe it is because people view a relationship with God in terms of sin.  Sort of like, I don’t want to hear about all the things I do wrong; no thanks!  Lesson number 2 – a relationship with God has nothing to do with sin.  Oh I know you’ve heard all the preachers preaching about sin and hell and punishment etc.  But at the end of the day, that’s just religion seeking to control people by making them afraid.  God certainly doesn’t seek your worship and love because you are scared to death of Him.  And, being all-knowing seems to indicate that maybe He knows all about the humans he formed and made!  Ya know?  The word “sin” comes from a word that means, “to miss the mark.”  Now think about this for second…you either hit the mark or you miss the mark, right?  The difference between really, really, really missing the mark and simply missing the mark is non-existent.  There aren’t levels of missing the mark because a miss is a miss.  But alas, people like to assign levels and back under the thumb go the sheep!  The process of identifying that you may have missed the mark isn’t to condemn you or judge you or defeat you, it’s to help you learn to hit the mark so you can frikken win!  (haha I said frikken)  God wants His people to win; to overcome; to prosper; to get healed; to live in victory!  There are certain choices that we make that turn out well and there are some choices that cause us pain.  God doesn’t need to beat you up for ignorantly choosing the painful route, you already suffered the pain, right?  Instead, like a good Papa, he simply consoles you and promises to make it alright again.  If my young child jumps off the roof and breaks his leg, a lecture about the height of roofs is totally unnecessary, aint it?  But some guidance on how to have fun without the pain – priceless!

We need God’s help and guidance (and a whole bunch of love) to successfully navigate life.  So, lesson number 3 is to seek God’s help!  Ask God to show you why you keep getting defeated and then be willing to see the stuff He is showing you.  Now, I should add that He isn’t going to teach you a lesson you need by freaking you out!  That is not a lesson.  He is going to teach you in ways that you can understand and that you can handle, much the same way you would teach your child a lesson appropriate for their age and maturity level.  And while I’m thinking about children, if your child asked you to teach them about something or asked you how something worked, how long would you make them wait to learn the lesson?  My guess is that you would begin teaching right when they asked you.   God, who already loves you, will begin the moment you ask.  It’s not that He isn’t listening to your request, but more that we are not paying attention to the lesson; or don’t believe that this lesson has any value; or presume that the lesson at hand has absolutely nothing to do with the request we made.  And there as plain as day, right in front of us, is the beginning phases of the deliverance we seek.  Not too heavy; not overwhelming, but here a little and there a little until the message is crystal clear.

In the great archery contest of life, God wants you to hit the bulls-eye every time you shoot.  He won’t operate the bow for you, nor will he change the direction of your arrows, but if you are willing, He will work in you to get to the prize over and over and over again.  He isn’t keeping track of when you missed the mark, no matter how badly you may have missed it, but instead will lovingly reach out to you to take another shot.  And when you sincerely ask for His help in the contest, if you pay attention, you will get much more than you ever imagined!  Life is good folks…with God’s help!

The Family Room of your Mind…

DP_Grubb-family-room_s4x3_lgWhen I think of a family room, I picture a warm inviting place.  The couch and love seat have large cushions and beckon you to lounge awhile.  There’s a fireplace flickering and sending out its heat.  The whole place is filled with family, all relaxed and feeling free to be themselves.  Sure there are occasional arguments and differences of opinion, but everyone is able to get back to the common unity and solve their issues because of the deep abiding love that underlies it all.  The pictures on the wall are pleasant; some of family; some with uplifting quotes, and some displaying the beauty of nature.  Everything about the room urges you to take your shoes off and stay for a bit.  When strangers come to the door they remain there at least until they demonstrate that they are worthy of the family room which is reserved for family, good friends and people that we like.  Wild animals aren’t allowed nor any influences that take away from the peace; the sanctity of the family room.  Although it is a place of beauty, it’s not always tidy because all who dwell there are allowed to let loose and worry about clean-up after the good times are done.   It’s a sanctuary that you can come home to after a challenging day and just rest.  It’s where the best conversations take place about things that matter and plans for the future are dreamed up.  It is a haven where prayers are offered with thankfulness for the beauty which is this life.  It is the family room.

Our minds, in many respects, are the family room of our existence.  But how many of us have allowed our minds to become a place of unrest; of anxiety; of worry oer’ the future?  How many of us are comfortable within ourselves and really feel free to be ourselves in every aspect of life?  And how many of us would rather put on the facade of the formal living room where the furniture is untouched and though filled with beautiful things is not designed for every day use, but instead used to impress those who enter our homes?  How many of our minds lack a warming fireplace and settle for the cold air of unresolved feelings and unhealed hurts?  How much of our lives do we spend occupying ourselves with activities ever anxious to avoid being alone with ourselves and our thoughts?  And what adorns the walls of our minds?  Do we have images of past mistakes and collages of the things we don’t like about ourselves?  Is the furniture hard and stiff from callousness and bitterness gone unchecked?  Can we even stand to stay long in the room without medicating ourselves as a form of escape?  Certainly given the reality that we only have one mind from which to function with in this life, it would behoove us to pay attention to the condition of that great citadel from which all of life springs forth!

God, while ever honoring the sanctity of free-will, desires that our minds be a peaceful haven from which we negotiate the many challenges of living.  He never promised that our living rooms would never get messy, but rather gave us cleansing, light infused words to help us tidy up the place and invite the warmth back in again.  However, He gave each of us our “own mind” with the solemn responsibility to safeguard it and keep it free from intruders.

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

You see it is our, not God’s, responsibility to protect our hearts and we protect them by deciding who or what has access and who or what does not!  I imagine that if you came home from work and found a wild snarling beast in the family room, mission number one would be to get rid of the beast.  Yet, how many of us allow wild intruders to remain in our minds and instead of getting rid them, choose rather to work around them and get by using the other available rooms?  We may not always choose who shows up in our living room, but we sure as hell can decide who gets to stay!  A common misconception of the day is to think that an open mind is one that entertains all visitors.  Yet we wouldn’t do that in our homes, would we?  We may answer the door, but not everyone gets to come in.  Much of the mental unrest that plagues people today comes from allowing things into their minds, that while appearing harmless, carry with them the seeds of unrest.  The world tends to be a very negative place and with the advent of modern electronic media, we all get deluged day by day with negativity.  But negative thoughts, like a negative house guest, soon affect everyone involved.  It’s not naive to avoid all the terrible news, it’s health promoting.  Sometimes in our homes things get broken or worn out.  Well, the sooner we take the thing to task, the sooner we can get back to enjoying ourselves.  Walking by the hole in the wall because you don’t want to deal with it is counterproductive because every time you walk by it you are mentally dealing with anyway.  And how often have you dreaded taking on a certain task only to find it was much easier than you thought and that you should have done it six months ago?  (smile)  To make your mind warm you have to consistently feed it warm thoughts.  To brighten up the place you have to open the blinds.  And the only way to soften the furniture is to soften your thoughts.  Let the thing go.  Forgive someone.  Replace bitterness with compassion.  After all, you know how your mind gets at times, so isn’t it possible that it happens to other people as well?

At the end of the day (ha, there it is), you and I owe it to ourselves to make the most of our short lives and we do so by taking good care of our minds.  We should be able to relax and recharge day by day.  We should be unafraid of our thoughts and have the courage to take on the intruders that threaten our well-being.  We should seek the peace that is our birthright as children of the Most High God.  I don’t know about you, but I want my family room to be such a wonderful place that many, many people want to come inside and while they are there I’m going to love them like they have never been loved before!  Light up that fireplace, plump the cushions, we are going to have one helluva party!

Just some good thoughts…

Stumbling in the Dark…

No%20Other%20Kind%20of%20Light  Not too long ago we came home kind of late following a get together with some close friends.  We had partaken of some beverages and it was sort of late.  My wife went to bed before me and I waited while fulfilling an attack of the munchies that besieged me.  Went I finally sauntered into the bedroom it was pitch dark inside and not wanting to wake my wife up, I fumbled around in the dark.  After taking out my contact lenses in the bathroom, I groped for the door that lead into the attached bedroom.  As I proceeded the 15 steps to my bed, I blindly discovered several obstacles in my path.  Whether it was too many drinks or the darkness or both, the next thing I knew I was heading to the floor at a high rate of speed.  Luckily I caught myself with my right thumb (ouchee) and let out a moan.  Somehow I had successfully navigated those 15 steps in the past, but on that night, not so lucky!  😉

So I ask, how many of you having been injuring yourselves while stumbling around in the dark?  No, I don’t mean navigating from the bathroom to the bedroom with the lights off, I mean navigating in life with the lights off!  For a problem to remain a problem, the implication is that you cannot “see” any solution.  However, like the ostrich never learned, just because you cannot see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  Often in life when confronted with a problem we drive ourselves crazy with analysis searching for the solution.  Yet where we go wrong is that we search for that solution in the darkness where the problem seems to emanate from.  For example, let’s say you receive a health scare.  You go to the doctor for your annual check-up and he begrudgingly tells you of some indicator of a problem coupled with some potential reasons (all of which are scary) why it may be indicated.  You head home, afraid, and resolve to do some private research on WebMD.  Not being a doctor, your research not only fails to resolve your concerns, but actually introduces more variables that scare you.  So in that frightful moment you now have two choices.  You can sit and worry and stew and brood for days until your next appointment (darkness) or you can change your thoughts and turn on the lights.  I offer this not as a criticism, but as an observation.  Most people would choose path A because that is all they have been taught in a world that is engulfed in darkness.  A great man once said, “Dwelling on the darkness won’t bring forth the light!”  Keeping your mind mired in the negative potentiality of the situation is walking in darkness.  And try as you may, you will never, ever, ever see the solution in that darkness.

Imagine you were hiking in the mountains in the middle of the day and came upon a steep cliff.  Accepting that no-one wants to fall off a cliff, you would be very cautious, but not necessarily afraid.  Now imagine navigating that same territory in the dark.  You would you most likely be very afraid and not without cause.  The terrain is identical but under the cover of darkness you just couldn’t see clearly what is around you or where you are heading.  Life without the light is like cliff walking in the dark.  We grope around in the darkness afflicted by this and tortured by that and are never quite able to discern the cause.  Well, God wants us to see the cause and He shows it to us by the light.

God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  God’s Word, given to us by God, is also light.  In the light of the truth we can see, often for the first time in our lives, the causes for the problems that plague us.  Without the light, we stumble and stagger and fall, assigning the cause to life (life’s a B…) and karma (karma’s a B and you don’t want to meet her) and their companions bad luck, misfortune and accidents.  Not understanding, we assign meanings which reveal our lack of understanding.  The Adversary, the enemy of all that is good, works in darkness.  And, he is counting on us humans to rely on our intellect and reasoning skills to attempt to solve issues that are spiritual at the root.  And, since they have a spiritual basis, we will never discern the root with our intellect, and thus goes mankind ever downward, always frustrated, living in a world he doesn’t get.  Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way!  When confronted with a challenge, we need the light.  (I can see you Carl…maybe you should consider becoming vegan…LOL Geico)  We need to step down off that almighty pedestal where we know everything and humble ourselves by at least considering that maybe there is more to learn.  I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to a teaching of the Bible, or been reading the Bible or even read a Bible verse on a Facebook post that completely illuminated a situation I was facing.  And here’s the kicker, the illumination hardly ever came from an area I thought was the issue.  In other words, my simple, joyful task is simply to turn the lights back on and not fret myself over which switches to flip.  My job is simply to turn on the lights.

So, the next time you are confronted with a problem whose solution isn’t apparent, instead of having too many drinks; taking out your contact lenses and navigating in the darkness, reach over and turn on the light.  Stop grappling with the thing in your mind, change your thoughts and turn on the light.  Our job as humans isn’t to know the answer to everything but rather defer everything over to the One that does.  Nothing is so scary in the clear light of day, is it?  If you can develop this simple little habit, you will find not only the solution to EVERYTHING that ever bothered you, but you will discover the Great God of love and light behind every good thing…

Wishing you a life of beautiful, clear sunny days, no matter what is going on outside!

Just some good thoughts…