I remember having a sleepover with a couple of girlfriends in middle school and we kept “tracking” our conversation. We were up in my bedroom splayed out on the floor and my bed talking about silly things that middle school girls talk about. We would get on these random topics and say “How did we end up talking about this?” And we would back-track our conversation and how one thing led to another and then another and then another and somehow – in our 12 year old brains – it all connected.
Have you ever thought about what you think about? That kind of seems like an oxymoron, but I promise it will make sense in a minute. Ask yourself these next couple of questions?
What do you spend your time thinking about? When you are getting dressed in the morning what are the thoughts in your head? What about when you are in the car going to work? Or eating your lunch? When you have time all to yourself to just be quiet and think, what thoughts are going through that brain of yours? When you dream about the future, what do you picture? Do you worry and stress or is it sunshine and rainbows or maybe a mixture of both?
We can not control what happens around us or even what happens to us, but the ONE thing we can control in our life is our thoughts. It is the one thing that no one else can have access to or tell us how to think. We get to choose what happens in our own head. And this is important, because what we spend our time thinking about effects us.
A few years ago I heard a teaching about just how much our thoughts can effect the rest of body and our life and it has stuck with me.
Imagine for a second that you are a coffee maker. No, not a barista, but an actual coffee pot with water and a filter and a place for coffee grounds. OK – now imagine any negative thoughts are the coffee grounds – and any positive thoughts are the water. Your brain is the filter and the pot is your heart.
If you can picture in your mind how a coffee maker works, the water goes into the grounds and then they both drip through the filter and then into the pot. So playing along with the analogy, your good and bad thoughts mix together, go through your brain and then into your heart.
The more WATER or GOOD THOUGHTS that you put in, the more clear/cleaner POT or HEART you are going to have. The more GROUNDS or NEGATIVE THOUGHTS you put in, the more darker POT or HEART you are going to have. The best part about this, is that we get to CHOOSE what goes in. We get to choose whether we have good or bad thoughts. Positive of negative. Uplifting or degrading. Sometimes it might not seem possible, but trust me, you can learn to control your thoughts.
I hope that is making sense to you all, because I know when I first heard this it totally changed how I thought and what I spent my time thinking about.
Jesus spoke about this very thing when he explained to his disciples that “…what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (Matthew 15:18-20).
There is a correlation between what we think about and our words and actions. If we spend our time being angry about the traffic we are in, thinking about how inadequate our boss is or watching movies/tv shows that promote sex and violence, then all of that stuff filters through your brain and into your heart and your person.
As I became more aware of this in my own life, one of the things that I had to stop doing was watching shows with any type of violence in them. I have a very active and vivid dream life and I realized that when I would watch shows with ANY type of violence I would have horrible nightmares. I know, I sound like a 2 year old, but its true. Those images and sounds went into my brain and into my thought process and they came back out in my sleep. I found that when I stopped watching stuff like this (even the advertisements and commercials – I cover my eyes like a kid!) that I had scary dreams a lot less often. I know it seems silly, but it was a choice that I made and that I continue to make that effects my thoughts.
I also used to be a big country music fan. My husband and I spend a lot of time in the car and therefore a lot of time with the radio on. We would listen to A LOT of country music. And you all know how that goes – songs get stuck in your head, sometimes songs you don’t even like, but somehow our brains take in all those words and then they are on repeat in our mind for the next 12 hours.
Over a period of time, we became more aware of how much sex, drinking, and just in general promiscuity is subtly promoted through these songs that play over and over on the radio. I think it initially dawned on us when one of our friends 6 year old daughter could sing along to Luke Bryan’s “Shake it (for me girl). I just thought, what is the little girl learning at such a young age. To make a long story short, we have basically stopped listening to country radio. We have found two great Christian radio stations that we listen to about 95% of the time. And now, the songs that get stuck in my head are about God, Jesus and are generally uplifting. I’ll tell you what, having words like “you’re worth more than gold” or “you’re an overcomer” are a lot better to have in my head than “shake it for me girl.” Sorry Luke!
The things that we think about DO matter. The more you think about pure things, about godly things, the more it will impact your life. Or on the other hand the more you worry or stress about something the more it can negatively impact your life. Paul states in Romans, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
He tells us to be transformed! How? By the renewing of our minds. By what we think about. We don’t to be conformed to what the world wants us to think about. Its simpler to want to get a new hair cut, or new wardrobe, or even new friends, but that won’t truly change who you are. If you want to change the output, you have to change in the input.
This isn’t an easy task. It takes time and it takes effort. We have to keep after it. Especially with all of the advertisements, TV shows, magazine headlines, and Facebook feeds that we have to combat with. It’s not going to be an overnight project, but it is one worth doing.
I used to struggle big time with self-esteem and self-image issues. The thoughts in my head were always negative. They were always degrading. They were always putting myself down. So guess what? After awhile that becomes your reality. But I got to a point that I was sick of it. I was so tired of feeling that way. I decided to wage war against my thoughts. How? By renewing my mind. And one of my favorite and most effective ways to do that is with God’s words.
I have found specific verses that help me combat those negative thoughts in my brain.
Like when I get thoughts like, “you’re not good enough to do ‘X'”, I think about John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Or when I start to have negative thoughts about my body, I think about 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”
Or when my mind start to go to things of the past and things that I’m not necessarily proud of, I think about Isaiah 43:18, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” or 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
It’s not an automatic thing that happens. It is a choice that I make, and to be honest I am still working on remembering to do this all the time, but I’m working on it. Patterns and old-habits are hard to break, but it is possible, especially if you ask God for help.
For me – I have written all of these verses on pieces of paper and taped them around my bathroom mirror. Now every time I wash my face, brush my teeth, or wash my hands I get to read these verses and put good thoughts in. The more time we spend focusing on the good and positive, the less time we have for the negative. It’s an ongoing process, but it is one that is SO worth it.
My last words that I am going to leave you with are ones that I am borrowing from the Apostle Paul, but are so fitting…
“Finally, brothers and sisters, 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” (Phillipians 4:8).