Thinking About Thinking

I fully admit, I stole this title from Jennie Allen. I’m currently studying through her incredible book Get Out of Your Head with a couple friends, and providentially ended up parked on chapters 10 (Delighting in God) and 11 (Cynical Thinking) for several weeks. 

It’s funny when things like that happen. They seem coincidental, but in hindsight, I know it was completely on purpose. God’s sneaky like that. 

The entire book is about toxic thinking and how — to put it simply — we can choosenot to go there. Scripture tells us to “take every thought captive,” (2 Corinthians 10:5) but man is that hard. 

Or is it just me? 

Just today, an individual lashed out at me over something that really had nothing at all to do with me. Instead of ignoring the pettiness, I let it tick me right off. Before I knew it, I’d spent several hours of my life stewing over this stupid thing — and even contemplated making a major life change because of it. 


What a complete waste of time! Especially when I know the best solution is to pray for the individual, and let. it. go. 

I do it all the time, though, and I bet I’m not alone. I’ll get aggravated over something my husband does, or politics, my weight, or the idiot who nearly ran me off the road because he was on his phone…anything, really. And before I know it, I’ve let my mind turn a non-issue with my husband, for example, into “he doesn’t love me anymore.” 

And that, ladies and gents, is crazy. Certifiable, even. 

But that’s how powerful the mind is. Jennie does a fantastic job talking about the science of the brain, and how we quite literally can retrain our brain to avoid toxic thinking. Clearly I’m still a work in progress, but at least I caught myself in the middle of that downward spiral today! 

“Learning to capture our thoughts matters. Because how we think shapes how we live.” — Jennie Allen 

I won’t unpack the book here — I’d rather you read it. But the underlying message is, when I feel an emotion (“the byproduct of the way we think”), I have a thought. From that thought comes a behavior — and therein lies the choice. I can choose to respond with grace (I’m not very good at this yet), or open my big mouth, and potentially adversely affect my relationships. 

All because of an emotion I chose to let get the best of me. 

Worth it? No way

I’ll let God’s word and Jennie’s sum it up for us: 

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2

“What we believe and what we think about matters, and the enemy knows it. And he is determined to get in your head and distract you from doing good and to sink you so deep that you feel helpless, overwhelmed, shut down, and incapable of rising to make a difference for the kingdom of God.”

I have a choice…you have a choice…that’s my parting thought today. 

Let’s choose to give grace — to ourselves and others. 

*Crossposted on Substack*

Living With Expectation

I’ve thought a lot lately about loss and grief and suffering…and death. 

Sadly, I’m too familiar with it. You probably are too, especially post-pandemic. 

The old adage “we’re either in a crisis, coming out of a crisis, or headed for a crisis” has never been more accurate. The world has gone mad, or so it seems.

When we, or people we know and love, are faced with suffering, it forces us to ponder things much more deeply than we otherwise would. We begin to question, looking for answers at every turn. We want to know how we’re supposed to get through it. And why.

Even when the one who’s suffering is the dog. 

I mentioned a few days ago that we’ve just learned our dog Aspen has terminal cancer. While this kind of news isn’t pleasant for anyone, animal lovers take it especially hard. 

And we’re definitely animal lovers. 

Certainly not the throw-red-paint-on-your-fur-coat variety, but our animals are part of the family. God created these amazing creatures and put them under our watch and care — we take that very seriously. So, this news has been especially hard to accept. 

I know many people who’ve recently suffered the loss of a parent, husband, wife, brother, sister, friend… even a child. Many more are struggling physically. Others are facing financial hardship. It’s difficult to imagine there are people in our world who have so little they’re not entirely sure where even their next meal is going to come from…but they exist — potentially right next door. 

If we choose to dwell on the reality of our lives without proper perspective, it’s depressing at best. Worst, it’s crippling. We simply weren’t meant to carry the weight of our struggles. 

We were, instead, created with — as C.S. Lewis so beautifully put it — “a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy.” A longing. A craving.

Scripture tells us all of creation groans as we await redemption. 

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” Romans 8:18-25

I keep going back to that word in bold – expectation. Expectancy. 

We are not made for this world — we are eternal beings, created with a longing that only Jesus can satisfy. The goal, then, is to live with expectation…expectancy…realizing that while there are plenty of things we can control, there are things that happen this side of heaven that we can’t fix. 

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Job — I know that’s a weird book to choose as a favorite, given Job’s suffering, but when I think back to the times I’ve suffered through loss, or watched family or friends suffer physically, it’s the book I turned to for comfort. Recently, thanks to my pastor, I’ve become fascinated by chapters 38-41 — God answers Job’s questions with a long series of questions that confirm His sovereignty and His power. 

Ultimately, the book of Job reminds us there is an unseen battle taking place in our lives. (Ephesians 6:12) We wonder, because we’re human, why God allows suffering. (Isaiah 55:8-9) We question His goodness, because we don’t have the ability to see what lies ahead, or know His ultimate purpose. 

So, we’re left with a choice: trust, or be bitter. Live in peace, or anxiousness. Life with expectancy, or despair. 

I don’t always choose well — I’m a worry wart. But once again, through grieving the coming loss of a beloved pet, God is teaching me: Trust. Peace. Expectancy. His ways are always, always better than mine. 

* My husband’s Townhall column this week deals with a similar topic – we both process our thoughts through writing and he does it so beautifully. You can find that article here

*Crossposted on Substack*

Choosing to See

I’m currently reading the third book in the If I Run series, written by New York Times bestselling author Terri Blackstock. This is my fifth time through the series. 

It’s an easy read, full of twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. You’d think I’d be tired of it by now, but every time I read it, I enjoy it every bit as much as I did the first time — honestly a first for me where Christian fiction is concerned. 

Warning: don’t you dare go buy the first book and think you’ll eventually maybe get the other two if you like it. You won’t be too happy with yourself when you get to the end of book one, and you’re forced to wait for the second to arrive. 

The series is about a girl named Casey Cox who discovers her best friend’s lifeless body and flees for her life, knowing she’ll be accused of his murder. There are many competing themes, which is partly what makes it so interesting, but there’s one overwhelming theme that speaks to me more deeply with every reading. 

Casey is struggling to understand Who God is and why on earth He would allow things to unfold as they have in her life. A secondary character encourages her to look for where God is working. As she grapples with her faith, she slowly begins to live with expectancy — intentionally looking for the good, in spite of the bad. (and trust me, there’s a whole lot of bad!)

What a valuable lesson, especially when conveyed through the eyes of someone who’s in the midst of such chaos. Instead of feeling sorry for herself and having the ‘life isn’t fair’…or ‘why me?’ attitude…that expectancy creates a spirit of gratitude. 

The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Then, a few verses later, “ I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” A few verses above both of these, he shares this little nugget: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

What a major difference that simple mental shift makes. Rather than dwelling on that which is wrong — and trust me, if you’re anything like me, I can always find something to complain about — when we look for where God is working in our lives, we don’t have time for discontent. 

What if, instead of fretting over an unexpected expense, we thanked God for providing the finances to cover it? Or, instead of fretting over a dirty house, we thanked Him for providing a home?

In Casey’s case, she’s running from a killer, and instead of focusing on the fact that her life is in danger, she recognizes that God helped her find just the right hiding place so she couldn’t be seen. 

I’m reminded of my father, when he found out he had cancer almost twenty years ago now. We stood in his hospital room just after hearing the devastating news, and rather than being angry or even sad, he gathered us around his bed and began to pray, thanking God for the cancer. I remember being dumbfounded, and — if I’m being completely transparent — a little angry. How could someone thank God for cancer? But he did…and God chose to use that illness in an incredible way, eventually healing him of his cancer completely. 

When we choose to look for where God is working in our lives, rather than focusing on the negative, we begin to praise instead of complain. 

What freedom! 

Let’s make this a priority, beginning today. As we gather with family this Christmas, let’s look for where God is working. Write it down so you can remember. 

Are you with me?

Where do you see God working in your life?

Join me in studying the little things we SHOULD be focused on in 2023, beginning January 17th or 19th.  The Life Skills Project is an 8-week interactive Zoom course that focuses on The Little Things: Why You Really Should Sweat the Small Stuff by Andy Andrews. 

Choosing Kindness in the Midst of Madness

We’ve all experienced it this time of year — rude wait staff, ridiculous crowds, angry drivers, and clerks who clearly wish we’d choose to do our last minute Christmas shopping anywhere else. 

What gives? Why are people so horrid at Christmas? 

Stress…is the easy answer. The mere thought of how much work I need to do to get ready for Christmas dinner is overwhelming. Add to that the guilt that our entire family won’t be together for Christmas this year. My blood pressure goes through the roof just thinking about it. I still have to retrieve our daughter’s gifts from the friend who stashed them for me, wrap them, and…whew! See what I did there? 

It’s easy to get spun up over little things, isn’t it? They really are little things, but these days, we’re so busy it doesn’t take much. 

I think the real answer to my question goes much deeper, though. I don’t know about you, but it was easier to feel Christmas joy when I was a kid. Those were simpler times. Now? It’s a choice. 

Pshhh, you’re thinking. A choice? Seriously? You should’ve gone to Costco with me this weekend! 

I know…but I am serious. Remember that obviously exhausted sales clerk who smiled and asked how you were doing last week as you bought those last few Christmas gifts? I’m pretty sure she didn’t feel like smiling, and maybe she didn’t really care a whole lot about how you were doing, either, but consider how her kindness made you feel. 

What about that lady you held the door for, who turned and thanked you instead of scowling? 

I know how I felt when a guy stopped traffic last week in the pouring rain so I could cross the street in front of him to avoid getting soaked. 

It’s not difficult to let the busyness of this season overwhelm us, turning us into the meme a friend posted a few days ago. It was a split picture, one of a dinosaur from Jurassic Park viciously bearing its teeth, slobbering, attacking another animal. The caption: mom while she’s cooking Christmas dinner. The other half had a cute picture of the purple, smiling dinosaur named Barney kids in the 90’s and early 2000’s loved. Below it, the caption read: mom when company arrives. I laughed way too hard at that — because you and I both know, it’s true. 

Life is hard. Many of us have suffered unimaginable loss, even in the last few weeks. With rising inflation, our money isn’t stretching nearly as far as it was even a year ago, so maybe for your family, bills are mounting. Maybe you’re struggling physically, or work has you overwhelmed. Whatever the reason for the stress, it’s real — that part’s undeniable. 

But how we respond to it is a choice

So, choose kindness. It costs nothing, and might just mean the world to the person on the receiving end. 

Be a blessing. 

Are you alone this Christmas? Find someone else who is, and seize the opportunity. 

Too much to do? Ask for help. Choose humility instead of lashing out at the people you love. 

Suffering through loss? Oh, my friend, I understand this more than most. Take the time to remember. Document those memories if you need to — one day you’ll be glad you did. But most of all, remember to focus on the living. Don’t get so consumed with grief that you forget to be present — those loved ones you’ve lost would want that. 

Most of all, take time this Christmas to pause and reflect on the Reason we celebrate. Our God is not a God of chaos — we aren’t meant to live that way. When we slow down and remember that, it’s much easier to choose to live in a way that honors Him. 

Dive deeper with me into studying the little things we SHOULD be focused on in 2023! Join me on January 17th or 19th for The Life Skills Project — an 8-week interactive Zoom course that focuses on The Little Things: Why You Really Should Sweat the Small Stuff by Andy Andrews. 

What You May Not Know About ‘O Holy Night’

Every now and then throughout the year, O Holy Night is the song I love to hear more than any other. When I hear it or sing it, I feel transported back in time — the thrill of hope, as the song describes it, is palpable.

When Christmas rolls around, it’s the song I have on repeat. I love it. Especially when David Phelps performs it.

Interestingly, in case you’ve never heard the story, the author of the lyrics of this gem was no saint. 

The year was 1843. 

The place, Roquemaure — a small town in southern France. 

The organ restoration at the local Catholic church was finally complete. To celebrate, the parish priest commissioned the local wine merchant, Placide Cappeau — an atheist — to pen a poem for Christmas mass. 

A rather unusual choice to say the least, Cappeau had followed in his father’s footsteps as a wine merchant, but was also a student of literature, an artist, and a licensed attorney who lost his hand as a boy after sustaining a gunshot wound during an accident. Clearly, writing was his passion. 

Regardless his own lack of belief, he obliged, and penned the poem in a stagecoach on his way to Paris, using the Gospel account of the birth of Jesus in Luke 2 as his guide. By the time he arrived, Cantique de Noel (Song of Christmas) was complete — the beginning line: Minuit, Chrétien, c’est l’heure solennelle — Midnight, Christian, is the solemn hour. He was so moved by his own work, he sought the help of his friend Adolphe Adam — a world renowned french composer, teacher, and music critic — in setting the number to music. 

The request, however, was a tall order. Adam was Jewish.

It would take him four years to compose Cantique de Noel. Interestingly, Adam — credited with co-creating the French form of opera — played by ear. O Holy Night was one of a select few of his religious works to ever be published. 

Cantique de Noel premiered during Christmas mass in Roquemaure on December 24, 1847, performed by opera singer Emily Laurey.

It was an instant success, and became a favorite of churches all over France. Shortly thereafter, things drastically changed when Church leaders learned the author of the lyrics was a socialist, and the composer, a jew. They determined the song unfit because of its “total absence of the spirit of religion” and banned it from further use. 

Over the next decade, however, the song was a favorite of French citizens, who continued to sing it at home. In 1855, American writer John Dwight discovered it, and set about translating the carol into English. A passionate abolitionist, Dwight was particularly moved by the second verse.

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains He shall break
For the slave is our brother
And in His Name
All oppression shall cease…

Over the next few years, the carol would become an American favorite, particularly in the North, during the Civil War. 

Many stories have since been told of the miraculous effect the carol had during times of war — when a bold soldier belted out the number on Christmas Eve 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War causing a 24-hour cease fire — and during peace, on Christmas Eve in 1906, when a university professor broadcast the song over the airwaves for the first time in history. 

From the time O Holy Night was first shared as a poem at a Christmas mass in a little town in southern France until now, God has used a Christmas carol written by someone who didn’t believe in Jesus, to touch the hearts of untold millions. 

Don’t ever think God can’t use you to change the world!

The Power of Words

I watched a stunning conversation unfold on Twitter this weekend, wherein an individual asked a simple question of another, and the person responded with a tirade that would make a sailor blush. (with all due respect to sailors) Both are public figures. 

I don’t know the background – I don’t need to. Here’s what I know: one individual was professional in their approach, the other immediately took a dive right to the bottom of the gutter. 

Who did that hurt? 

While it probably didn’t feel pleasant to be on the receiving end of the name calling, I can tell you who it didn’t hurt. 

We’ve all touted the “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” mantra. This statement couldn’t be more untrue. 

Words are like daggers – they cut deep. The damage can’t be undone. 

“A fool cannot hold his tongue.” — Plutarch

Scripture is full of verses that talk about being cautious with our words, but James 3:8 hits the nail on the head — “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (KJV) 

I’ve not only been on the receiving end of such poison – I’m sorry to say I’m guilty of giving it. As much as I wish I could take back the hurtful words I’ve spoken in moments of anger, I can’t…and I’ll have to live with those consequences for the rest of my life. 

“The tongue has no bones but is strong enough to break a heart. So be careful with your words.” — Anonymous

We want to be right. We want to feel justified. And often, we do most certainly have a right to be angry! But in the example I gave at the beginning, right or wrong, the individual who responded so viciously lost the respect of many with just one 140 character tweet. Imagine how much more damage we do when such things are said in person to the people we love?

Was it worth it? I don’t know. But the person claims to be a Christian. 

As a believer, I have a choice. I can use my words to encourage or destroy — “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” Proverbs 18:21. In this example, not responding would’ve been a better choice. 

How often do we react immediately out of anger? Easy to do, isn’t it? 

This week, as we approach Christmas, and spend a great deal of time with family members who tend to push all the buttons…let’s choose kindness, or silence. Let’s use words that are life-giving, filled with gratitude and praise — always remembering Who we represent.