I Never Wanted To Change My Mind

I always thought that changing your mind was a flaky thing to do, that someone who changes his or her mind can’t really be counted on.

But I’ve changed my mind on that one. … Please don’t consider me flaky now; let me explain.

The Bible tells us that God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever; He’s not going to change His mind. He is all-knowing and all-powerful so He can remain unchanged.

For the rest of us, we have to change our minds. If we don’t, we never will progress; we will never get out of our ruts. We will never make any breakthroughs.

In order for you to do something different, it will mean you have to change your mind.

We can try to change things by focusing on developing new skills or processes. We can try to make ourselves follow a certain set of rules or regiments.

But unless we change our minds, we will not be successful in the long run.

People go on diets or they hit the gym, bound and determined that they will lose weight or get into shape by doing certain things and eating certain things (or not eating certain things).

But most of those people, who start out with these great intentions, go back to their old ways of eating and their old ways of living on their couches.

The reason? – they never changed their minds.

They changed their habits for a while, or their activities or their intake for a time. But only a change of mind will activate their actions into something that will stick with them for the long haul.

Everything starts in the mind, not with your actions. When you change your mind, you can then change your actions.

Forget the diet until you change your mind about how healthy you want to be and feel.

Don’t go to the gym until you change your mind about being fit.

And by the way, changing your mind is not that easy.

It’s not just a matter of telling yourself something new. You have to believe that the change of mind is a worthy change, that it is a wanted change, that you are fully convinced that you have to make this change.

Often a change of mind comes when you reach the point when you are so unsatisfied that you have to do something.

It’s that Popeye principle. You know, when Popeye would be beaten to a pulp by Brutus, when he had no hope, no escape and no strength.

Just before he popped a can of spinach out of his shirt pocket and squeezed it into his mouth (where he got the strength to do that is another story), Popeye would say, “I can’t stands it; I can’t stands it no more!”

That’s it, right there – that’s when we get to the place where we are ready to change our minds.

Before that point, we probably will just be trying a new activity, fad or process.

to be continued.

Here’s the thing: We like our minds just the way they are. Only when we are not satisfied, not wanting the same, are we ready to change our minds. That’s why, when it comes to our faith, there is usually something making us uncomfortable. Don’t ignore it until it goes away; grapple with it, wrestle with it. It may be God trying to get you to change your mind.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What has got you unsettled, unsatisfied that you may be inclined to change your mind? Leave your comments below.

Presence of mind

From time to time I will republish a post I’ve written in the past. The post was originally written and published in April 2012.

There’s a song called “Holiday in my Head” by a group named Smash Mouth. The song is all about how we can travel in our mind to fantastic places and have a great time, while never leaving our home.

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One line in the song states, “I’m just looking for paradise in my living room.”

We all remember being in class when we were young and hearing the teacher get upset at a student who was gazing out the window instead of paying attention.  The student was day dreaming.

He was present in class but he wasn’t there in his mind. In his mind, he was either somewhere far away or maybe just playing soccer on the field with another class.

I used to do that.  There were times, while playing with my kids, that I would get very tired.  I would end up sprawled out on the living room floor, fallen sleep while my kids would continue to play around me and on me, using my body and limbs as their toys.

When Lily would come into the room, she would just shake her head to the kids’ response of, “Look Mommy, we’re playing with Daddy.”  The truth is, I was present in body but certainly not with my mind. We can, at times, be present but not really present.

During my devotions the other day I read a verse from 2 Peter 3:8 which reads, “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.”

I have read this verse before but I’ve never really thought too much about it until now. What struck me was what this verse reveals about God.  I started to think about how the Lord is present all the time, in every situation.

If a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, then every day is under a microscope for him.  Every second, every moment the Lord takes in. He’s present, he’s active, he’s personal in it all, right down to the minute detail of the day.

But, then Peter says a thousand years is like a day to the Lord, and here it suggests to me that He sees how all the days unfold before him, that nothing escapes Him.

Therefore, the Lord is present, active and involved, knowing how each day and moment of my life fits together in His overall plan and picture.

Here’s the thing:  If God is present in every moment of my day, it means he is interested and available to me at any time in my day.  And, if God oversees how all the moments of my day fit into the big picture of my life, it means he is involved and active in the big picture of my life as well. Unlike us who daydream at times, or me, who at times, played with my kids without really playing with them, God is alway present.  He is interested and available, active and involved in our lives, moment by moment.  God is always fully present with us. That’s great to know.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: When were you present in body but not in your mind? Leave your comments below.

 

If It’s Out Of Sight, It’s Out Of My Mind

There is a saying “out of sight, out of mind” and it is particularly true with me. If something is out of my sight, there’s a good chance I will forget about it.

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Case in point: I’m not a great guitarist, but I like to play my guitar a bit. I used to keep it in its case, but I would never see it so I never thought of playing it.

Eventually I got a stand so my guitar now sits in our family room in plain sight, creating a much greater chance that I’ll pick it up and strum a little.

I need to do that with a lot of things because if I don’t see them there’s a good chance I will forget about them.

Maybe that’s why I have so many papers on my desk. I’m afraid that if I put those papers somewhere, like in a filing cabinet or file folder, I will forget about them and not get at the work they represent.

Lily doesn’t really like my “out of sight, out of mind” system for getting things done. For her it creates clutter.

The other day there was a new piece of clutter: I received my renewal for our car licence plates. I don’t need to renew for a couple of months, and since I don’t like giving the government my money earlier than I have to, the way I operate means the renewal form will be on our kitchen table for some time.

Now maybe right about now you are sympathizing with Lily, but here’s the flip side …

A week ago I was getting low on Bisoprolol – it’s a beta blocker, and one of the pills I take for my heart. So it’s kind of important that I don’t run out of the stuff.

What I do when I get low is I put the bottle on the kitchen table to remind me to call the pharmacy for more. I can’t just call in at any time, however, because my insurance company, who pays part of the cost, doesn’t want me to start stockpiling the little pink pills. I have to wait until I’m down to 4 or 5 pills.

Since I load my pill dispenser every Saturday for the next week, I have to have that bottle on the kitchen table for a few days.

So there the bottle sat, prominently displayed. … The problem was that we were having company and so Lily moved the bottle.

She moved it out of sight which meant it was out of mind for me. I never thought of it until Saturday rolled around and I was filling up my dispenser.

Not only could I not find my Bisoprolol bottle, I had forgotten I needed to order more!

So Saturday morning I was scurrying around trying to find my pills and then trying to get my order in a.s.a.p. so I didn’t miss a day.

We’ll be keeping those bottles on the table from now on.

Here’s the thing: If you want to be consistent in spending time with God, keep your materials (Bible, devotional book, journal) in plain sight, ready to go for when you meet with God. Being able to see them will remind you that you have an appointment to keep with the Lord.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What do you do to ensure you keep your time with God each day? Leave your comment below.

What A Mind I Have!

Sometimes our minds surprise us; sometimes they let us down.

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It is a rare occasion when I’ve finished writing my sermon before about 6 pm on Friday night. But this past week I finished writing my sermon at 1:40 pm.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to be done that early in the day. It was like a burden had been lifted from me.

There is a weight that preachers carry with them as they prepare sermons. It feels heavy like a backpack that you can’t take off until you get to your destination.

But when the sermon is done, the backpack comes off and you feel light again.

I celebrated by going for lunch. I decide to try a new chicken fast food restaurant close by and I even got myself a pop. I was feeling good.

The crazy thing was, though I finished my sermon in record time for once, I still had more writing to do. So after a not-so-inspiring chicken lunch celebration, I was back at it. This time writing a funeral message.

The amazing thing was I was still focussed and by 6 pm I had finished that message and I was really done for the night.

I was feeling great, mentally exhausted, but ecstatic that I was all done.

In the evening, Lily and I went to a store and saw someone we knew from a distance. About two minutes after that I realized how my mind had let me down despite how focussed I’d been in writing messages that day.

Seeing that guy reminded me that I had forgotten to do something very important earlier in the day.

My message had flowed out of me like a tap turned all the way on, but I had forgotten to fill the baptistry tank in the sanctuary!

You see, another church had asked to use our church for a baptism service on Sunday afternoon and the guy I saw Friday night while shopping was from that church. Seeing him triggered my memory.

For a Sunday baptism, the tank must be filled and the heater turned on by Friday so the water will be warm enough.

I was ripped, upset at myself for not remembering. I was devastated that I would have to spend the rest of the evening babysitting a baptistry tank (it’s a 2 hour process).

How could my mind be so sharp that day but still let me down so badly?

I wanted to blame someone, or something, for how my day turned out. But in the end I had no one to blame but myself.

Here’s the thing: When something goes wrong, we want to blame someone else. It doesn’t change the outcome, but we feel justified being angry at whomever we pin the fault on … even if it’s God. However, accepting responsibility enables us to see how God works things out. I normally have a long day writing a sermon. This week God enabled me to write both messages in the time it usually takes to write one. Though the baptistry issue cost me time Friday night, God used that guy I saw to remind me about what I’d forgotten. When I put the blame in the proper place I can see how God helps me even when my mind lets me down.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: How has your mind amazed you and failed you in the same day? Leave your comment below.

If It Gets In My Head, I Can’t Let It Go

Have you ever got something in your head and couldn’t let it go? Songs can get in your head and it’s near impossible to erase them from that ram chip in your skull.

kingston-memory-upgrade

And it doesn’t take much to get it in there. You hear a song on the radio and it sticks with you all day long.

You might not even like the song, but there you are in a meeting with your superiors and, just as you boss asks you an important question, you have “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor taking up valuable real-estate upstairs.

While you’re trying to think, you’re tapping your pen on the table and under your breath you’re humming “da da da da da”.

You just can’t shake that thought in your head. You’d like to record over it with something useful but it seems that for an undetermined amount of time that thought, that song is going to stick around.

I felt that way this week as I was writing my sermon. I got to near the end and I was in need of a closing illustration.

I thought of a story to use, but the story has been told many times. As I researched it, I discovered that the story has a couple of variations and it’s not even true!

It’s too bad, because it’s a great story of a boy at a concert who slips on stage when no one is watching and starts playing chopsticks on the piano. The audience starts grumbling, but the maestro hears the boy and comes out. He tells the boy to keep playing while he plays around him making beautiful music.

Yes, I know, you’ve heard that story. And yes, I know, you didn’t know it wasn’t true.

The problem was I couldn’t get that story out of my head! It seemed like the right illustration for me. I didn’t want to use it; I didn’t feel I could use it, but I couldn’t get it off my mind.

Every time I tried to think of something else, that story kept replaying for me like it was on a loop track just behind my eye sockets.

I scanned the internet for stories like it and found none. I looked in books where I’ve found some good stories in the past – again nothing. Just that one story.

It was perfect, but I couldn’t use it.

I got sidetracked but the story came back. Time was ticking by. It was evening; my eyes got heavy. I think I dreamed about that story and I was the boy.

And then I came to, and a memory awakened in me.

It was a real-life instance, a modern day parallel to that story. I had seen it on TV about thirteen years ago and somehow my brain found and loaded that story into my jukebox mind for me to play. Press E-10.

Here’s the thing: What we put in our mind stays there, and it will be recalled as needed at random times in the future. So we need to be sure we are storing God’s truth in those minds of ours. For just when we need a verse to encourage or help us, it can drop right into the forefront of our thinking. God’s truth might un-expectantly pop into our minds, and stay with us for the day … and that’s so much better than, “You know I’m all about that bass, no treble.”

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What has gotten into your mind lately that you can’t kick out? Leave your comments below.

My Brain Has A Mind of its Own

My last blog got me thinking more about how my brain works. I’m not professing to know much about the brain (like a neurosurgeon, psychiatrist or some other scientist who has studied the brain), but I do have one, and over time I’ve kind of noticed how mine works.

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What got me thinking about this was composing my last blog about how distracted I was writing my sermon (check out my blog, “So . . . I’m easily Distracted”).

I started thinking about how hard it was for me to focus on my work, or what I wanted or needed to be concentrating on.

It dawned on me that my brain wants to take the easiest path possible.

So whatever stimulates my brain, that’s where my brain wants to go. If I see something, my brain goes there. If I hear something, my brain is attracted to that. It works the same with smell and touch but not with as much tensity (for me, anyway).

I can be in the middle of a conversation with someone and then see something out of the corner of my eye. My attention is drawn to that thing, and I’ve lost my focus on what I was talking about.

I can be thinking or doing something, but if I hear music, immediately the lyrics to the song flood my mind and I start singing. For me, someone can just say a word and that will trigger a song in my head!

On good days, when I’m well-rested and determined, I can discipline my brain to stay on task for a while. But the longer I have to intently concentrate, the harder it is.

Over the years, I’ve learned to do a few things to help. I study in the mornings – the earlier the better for me. I focus better at that time because I’m less stimulated by other things, my mind is more alert, and there are less distractions.

Another thing I do is write while I think. For instance, when I pray I often write (type) what I am praying because then my eyes are drawn to the same thing that I’m thinking about and I stay focussed.

I’ve even used the “pomodoros” to set short, 25 minute focussed bursts to work, and then take a short break. I know most of you are looking up the word “pomodoro” to see if a tomato sauce has some time management qualities to it. Just google “pomodoro technique”; it’s named after a kitchen timer.

The bottom line for me is that I have a poorly disciplined brain. If my brain was a child I would discipline it, like have it sit in the corner for a time out. But my brain is over 50 years old; it’s been freewheeling for a long time!

I guess I’ve just gotten used to how it works and made some adjustments to coerce it to do what I want it to do. But still, it’s an unruly little fella.

Here’s the thing: Following Christ is not natural for us. What’s natural is to follow what feels good to us. Unfortunately, that will often cause us to go in the opposite direction that Christ would have us go. If we are going to follow Christ, we need to employ methods and discipline to coerce our nature to go in the direction Christ is leading.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What do you do to stay focussed? Leave your comment below.