Loop

Have you recently stopped to consider the conversation that plays in your mind on a regular basis?

I’ve been memorizing Psalm 139 throughout my pregnancy and verse 23 just happens to be my verse for the week. After sharing thoughts about meditation yesterday, this verse could not be more timely. Here’s what it says:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23, NIV)

The Psalmist is requesting for God to examine everything that he meditates upon. As I recite the verse in the shower, as I clean the kitchen, or on a walk, I’m asking for the same thing. I am asking my Heavenly Father to sift through and know all the words in my heart and mind. Only slightly nerve-wracking, right?

So today I have been taking my own sample collection of words. I have tried to record (in my journal) or consciously take note of the thoughts that run through my head and heart.

I’m going to challenge you to join me. Pull out a piece of paper and write out the phrases you most often speak to your soul.

Here’s a short sampling from mine: You could do this better. There’s so much to do. Try harder. You should be more prepared. You should be a better friend. You are going to be an emotional trainwreck. Be afraid. Nicely Done (SARCASM).

I realize that I’m fairly sarcastic with myself, and more than anything the voice inside is pushing to do more, be more, try more, or simply feel more guilt. GAH. Haven’t I been through this? I feel as though I’ve made real progress in the past year to move beyond performance evaluation and into nurturing my soul. Any one else struggle in this arena? I know the truth I should cling to, the soundtrack that would energize and encourage me, and yet I keep pulling out an old cassette tape that should have been trashed years ago. I don’t want the thoughts in my brain to work like an involuntary muscle, and that’s why meditation must come into play.

There’s a reason why God gave commands to His people and then challenged them to live them throughout the day.

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NLT

So often my reading in the morning can stay just that: reading in the morning. If I don’t make an effort to latch onto a phrase, thought, point, word, or verse, my involuntary muscle kicks in. That’s why memorizing a huge chunk of scripture has been such a blessing during this season. I’m up in the middle of the night more times than I would like to admit… okay, like 3-5 times. My bladder must be the size of a mustard seed. It’s ridiculous. Sometimes when I wake my brain is looping a top 40 hit from the radio, or I start in on the to-do lists, or the anxieties, and I know that I need to shut all of that down if I ever want to get back to sleep at 3:20am. Reciting Psalm 139 in my head or praying have become the go-to meditations… and it’s so peaceful, comforting, and beneficial.

doorframe

Meditating has become the way that I let the truth infiltrate my heart and mind. Meditating changes the loop playing in my head and redirects my thoughts toward what is excellent and praiseworthy.

So that’s my challenge for all of us today. Consider your tape, and ditch it if it needs to go. Make the word part of your day. Talk about it with your friends. Look at it on your mirror. Write it on your hand. Tape it on your window frame… meditate on it day and night.

Following,
Ginger

Meditate

word

“Meditation… was a simple repetition of the ‘word’ received from lectio [reading]… The ‘word’ was repeated in the mind, or even on the lips, until it formed in the heart.” 

-Basil Pennington, Lectio Divina: Receiving the Revelation

The word MEDITATION is intimidating. One of the main reasons I’ve typically chosen pilates over yoga is because of meditation. I have to shut off my mind? I can’t even do that when I want to fall asleep. I remember taking a voice and diction class in college and being encouraged to meditate on a color as we produced different sounds. I was rolling my eyes the entire time. “Heeeeeeeeeee. HAAAAAAAAAAAAA.” [Sure. That was purple and green. Meditating is awesome.]

But when I read verses like the following, I  realize that I am encouraged to meditate!

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” Joshua 1:8

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

“I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” Psalm 119:15

I am reminded that meditation does not look like humming with my legs crossed. It can, but it can also be an active filling of my mind rather than just clearing. Sometimes I need to clear it. I need to shut out my voice and the self-talk that loops on repeat. I must quiet my heart and head, and sometimes the only way that I can seem to do just that is through… well… meditation! I just haven’t always identified what I was doing as meditation. But my most recent reading in Marjorie J. Thompson’s Soul Feast highlighted meditation in a different light.

“The meaning of mediation in historic Jewish and Christian practice differs in that meditation involves an active mind. The type of mental work is quite specific. It is not the critical, analytical, or formulating work of Bible study, which may inform meditation but remains distinct from it. The mind work of meditation moves us to reflection on where we are in the text. Active imagination can sometimes help us find connections between our life stories and the great story of God’s redemptive work with us. Mediation engages us at the level of the “heart” in its biblical sense, where memory, experience, thoughts, feelings, hopes, desires, intuitions, and intentions are joined. This is where we are likely to discover what a given passage means in our lives personally or as a community.” – Marjorie J. Thompson, Soul Feast

I’m looking forward to reading and studying further. More to come this week.

Following,
Ginger

Beat Up Playlist

Here’s what you will find if you break into my journal entry for this past Monday morning:

“The overwhelmed feeling is starting to creep in! Full weekends, garage sale, wedding activities, preparation for speaking engagements, preparation for travel, blog posts, volunteer opportunities, youth ministry, friendships, registry, baby stuff. My plate feels full. Lot’s of good things, but that voice in my head wants to tell me this is too much and I should quit while I’m ahead.”

I took a break from journaling and started reading… but that didn’t last long. Soon I was back to journaling.

“Lord – I find myself dwelling on the things I am anxious about. Teach me to have a joyful heart in all of this.”

Step #1 was to admit my anxiety and recognize it wasn’t a place to dwell. I was letting my self-talk run negative and the cycle wasn’t breaking simply by dwelling on it. But step #2 was also within my grasp. Here’s what I tried next.

I wrote ANXIOUS HEART in my journal. Below it I listed every little thing that could keep me up at night or keep me on edge. I wrote out everything the little voice inside of me continued to throw in my face. But then I made another list.

I wrote JOYFUL HEART on the opposite side of the page and made my list of thanks. There were twenty-five items before I even stopped to think what else I could add. Before I knew it, I felt my entire mood shifting, my body relaxing, and my outlook changing.

glass

Yesterday I quoted Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Here’s a refresher:

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you.”

Our thought-lives play such a huge role in our every day lives! No one else may ever know what runs through our minds each day, but we know… and it probably is less that kind and less than beneficial. In fact, I often beat myself up with my own words. And when I beat myself I end up feeling defeated and lonely. When I worry I feel out of control and frustrated.

“Worry is fixating on or meditating on what if rather than what is. Our English word worry comes from the Old English wyrgan and the Old High German wurgen. Both mean “to strangle.” When we worry, we choke out the life-giving truth that should be filling our thought closets.” – Jennifer Rothschild, “Me, Myself, & Lies”

The words we listen to become the soundtrack of our lives. I can play my beat up playlist if I want, or I can switch to meditating on giving thanks for God’s wonders and God’s Word.

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

If your thoughts today are less than pleasing, can I encourage you to hit the pause button? Play a different track. List your many blessings, call a friend, write a letter, get outside, open up the Word, and start meditating on the WHAT IS rather than the WHAT IF.

More tomorrow…

Following and learning,
Ginger