Why Praise God – (Part 2 – Mind and Emotions)

Why Praise God? (Part 2 – our mind and emotions)

This time, let’s look at how praising God for all things affects our minds and our emotions.

In Proverbs 23:7 in the KJV it states, “As a man thinks, so is he.” Both biblical and secular scholars have acknowledged the power of our thoughts and the effects they wield on both our bodies and emotions. Scientists have proven that we can calm or increase our heart rate by the scenes we visualize mentally. Everyone is aware of the damaging effects of stress – the tension that builds when we feel overwhelmed, worry about things beyond our control, or imagine horrible outcomes based on present circumstances. These scenarios deplete our energy, leave us feeling hopeless and eventually take us to despair and a depressed state. This is definitely a downward spiral.

Many years ago I was challenged to track the thoughts that led me into depression or despair and I made an amazing discovery. In almost every case the thoughts that led to this state started out with the question, “What if…?” I would play out some horrible scenario that may happen as a result of a mistake I made or some circumstance I was worried about. That 1st “What if ..” led to a darker scenario which led to another “What if…” that literally dumped me into an emotional pit.  Within a relatively short period of time I could go from mildly concerned to outright depressed; and it all started with an innocent “What if…?”  I could feel the darkness closing in on me! What was I doing?  I was MAGNIFYING the problem. The more I considered it, the bigger and more ominous it became until it seemed insurmountable. So I learned from this, and when I heard those words pop into my brain I determined to go down a different path of thinking.

One day several years ago I was living hand to mouth basically and totally dependent on God for all my provision. I was in the process of building a business and one day after thinking I had hit a very major goal and turning point, everything appeared to crumble around me. Several people seemed to be backing out of their commitments and mentally I started the dark hole of “what ifs” in the negative direction. Before I knew it, by late that afternoon I was depressed. I was so ecstatic just a few days before, thanking God for helping me hit this major goal and shared my praise report with anyone who would listen. Now I didn’t dare call any friends for help as I was sinking into the mire of my own depressing thoughts, because I felt like it would make God look bad and me a fool! I already knew about the power of praise but I was so overwhelmed, it hadn’t even occurred to me to thank Him for any of it.

I was in my car and feeling at the end of my rope when I turned on the radio and at that instant, I heard someone say “and they put the devil under their foot” and it was if a clap of thunder boomed within my car. Immediately, I realized that I was under attack!  I had been lured into the snare of doubt and fear and “what ifs” and it had darkened my mind, depressed my emotions and stimulated a bunch of other negative thoughts. But God showed up in that one line on the radio and the hair stood up on the back of my neck as I realized I was in a battle! I wasn’t going to go down without a fight!

I immediately sat up straight in my car, narrowed my eyes and went to war. In a loud and determined voice I started praising God for every detail of the current circumstances. I thanked Him that He allowed all of it to happen. I acknowledged that He was in control and none of this could even take place if it wasn’t designed to make me stronger. I thanked Him that He was going to bring great good out of whatever ended up happening and I totally trusted Him for that. I thanked him that people quit and backed out. I even praised Him for how I had fallen for the enemies lies and gone into victim mode. I thanked Him for every nuance of the experience I could think of.

The atmosphere in my car changed instantly and now it was crackling with energy and power. The presence of God was real and electrifying. My emotions went from the pit to the heavens within moments, why?

  1. Now I was MAGNIFYING God and His abilities
  2. I was focused on solutions and not on the problems
  3. I was depending on God’s ability to perform and not on my ability (or lack thereof) to “fix.”
  4. When you bring God, who is light, into your thinking, the darkness must flee. It’ like turning on a light in a darkened room.
  5. My emotions immediately followed my thoughts and my faith started to rise. This once again started the upward cycle.

I challenge you this week to track some of your thoughts. When you find yourself “down”, examine the thoughts that brought you there. Notice how they affected your emotions, then turn to your loving Heavenly Father, the Creator of the Universe who breathes stars into existence and start thanking Him for His sovereignty and promise to work “even this” for good.

I can’t wait to hear about your experiences….

 

Why Praise God? Part 1 – spiritual growth

In two simple words . . . it works!

I don’t mean that in a self serving way as though when I praise God for all things, as it mandates in Ephesians 5:20, that it is like a magic wand that brings all kinds of blessings my way. But praising God for everything at all times works on every level for everything! Superlatives galore! Usually using words like all, never, always, everything, and at all times is NOT the truth. Yet, when it comes to thanking and praising God for all things, He has made His Word very clear on the matter.

What do I mean by that? This is such a profound and important topic to our Christian faith, I want to break it down into three different areas. How operating in and living by God’s command to praise Him for everything at all times affects us in the areas of our spirit, mind/emotions and bodies/material world.

For this blog post, let’s address the spirit (our personal, spiritual life).

First and foremost, it builds my FAITH. Since it is impossible to please God without faith, (Hebrews 11:6) this is very important! I feel like I’m doing a “Faith rep” with weights when I praise God regardless of circumstances or how I feel. In essence, I’m stating, “God I trust you. I believe you are a loving Father that is working for my good. You are orchestrating this experience to make me more like Christ and to bring you glory, and I thank you for being that caring of a Father!”

Then, I find that sincerely praising God starts to bubble up JOY from somewhere deep inside. Nehemiah stated that the joy of the Lord is our strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) When I start praising, I begin seeing new possible outcomes I hadn’t considered before. My vision is heightened and I’m getting the mile high view (which usually brings more PEACE).

The joy turns into STRENGTH. This strength enables me to be obedient to the direction of the Holy Spirit in my life when He leads me out of my comfort zone. This can be very exciting and even though it is sometimes scary, I know it’s coming from Him, so my only responsibility is to take the NEXT step. The outcome is God’s responsibility. He has simply asked me to be joyful on the journey and trust Him. Understanding this makes it easy to continue praising Him no matter what happens.

All of this gives me more HOPE, which builds more positive expectation, which increases my faith and the cycle repeats itself! For once, we can be on an upward spiral!

In Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, he states the sign of a mature Christian is one who can be thankful amidst tragedy.  This is only possible as we get to know God more personally. In Psalms 22:3 God states He inhabits the praises of His people,.  He brings His Presence, Power, Light and Love right into the middle of whatever we thank Him for. That, my friends, becomes very personal!

If you exercise this practice of praise, this spiritual discipline of thanking God for all things, consistently for a week, I believe it will powerfully impact your spiritual well-being. It certainly did mine. Experiment and share your stories with the rest of us.

For anyone who posts a comment and does not have a copy of Prison to Praise by Merlin Carothers, I will send them a FREE copy.

In the next blog, let’s discuss what it does for our mind and emotions…

No More Shame!

I recently spoke with someone that had been a part of the group I was involved in FORTY years ago. He had participated for just a few years. He shared with me how he had been haunted by regret, guilt and shame for all these years, feeling he had “blown it” by leaving when he did.

He was not just a little surprised when he read my book and was very relieved.

I could totally relate to how he felt, as I had felt that way for SO many years within our group. “If only I hadn’t done that, or if only I had done that better . . .” ad nausea, one time almost to the point of suicide. We live in a spiritual reality with our bodies and minds focused primarily on the physical universe. Just because we can’t sense it with our 5 senses, does not mean it doesn’t exist.

It has been my personal experience, and through Scripture, I firmly believe we are surrounded by spiritual beings, some for us (ie: guardian angels) and others against us (demons). Just as we were created for a purpose, these beings have purpose as well and they are fighting for our minds.

God, in His divine wisdom, created us in His image and gave the incredible power to choose. He desires relationship with His creation, not a robotic, programmed response. That’s why we have the power to think, to choose, to create and figure things out and to give or withhold love. I see myself as a toddler, just now (at age 63) finally figuring some things out in regard to how things work in this world! The lessons are not always easy or comfortable, similar to watching my 1 year old grandchild take all kinds of falls as she is learning to walk and run. But she is learning and so am I!

It has helped me immensely to know that:

  1. I do have an enemy and he is not flesh and blood but the enemy of God, satan; the master deceiver, the father of all lies.
  2. That He that is in me, Christ Jesus, is GREATER than he that is in this world (satan and his demons).
  3. I have choice to believe satan’s lies (oftentimes spoken unwittingly through others) or to believe God’s truth about who I am as He speaks to me through His written word and through the Holy Spirit that dwells within my body and mind – which is His holy temple (wow!)

The path that led me out of the many lies I was believing about myself and that brought to light God’s unconditional love for me was the path of Praise. As I learned to Praise God for ALL things (see Ephesians 5:20), it was like dynamite exploding and breaking up deeply held beliefs I had at my core.

The more grateful I became about things, the more baggage was blown to bits from the inside out. Slowly (sometimes EVER SO SLOWLY) joy began to replace the torment I experienced as I languished in regret over past mistakes and mentally rehearsed the lies I had been told by others and myself!

I started realizing how much God loved me – warts and all! He created me! He knows me inside and out and loves me completely, perfectly just the way I am. Boy that was so hard for me to accept. I had lived a “performance based” life my ENTIRE life! Yet somewhere deep inside, I knew and recognized this love God had for me. I had been touched by it often enough through the sincere kindness of a loved one, by an incredible sunset that filled me with peace, or by the unconditional love of a pet. I had just convinced myself that I didn’t deserve it – not all the time, not unconditionally. Surely I had to “earn” it like everything else in this life!

That, my friend is the GOOD NEWS! God’s gift to us; His Love, came to us in the form of a man, Jesus Christ who is Love incarnate, the link between the physical world and the spiritual one. All God and all man. Blows my mind. But this love, this grace He offers every one of us, IS available just for the asking AND receiving. Only because I trust in this Love, this person who gave up all on my behalf (and yours), can I be grateful for everything. And boy does that ever work! Give it a try this week and let me know how it goes. If you want to know more, I recommend Merlin Carothers’ books on Praise. You can find them at www.foundationofpraise.com

More on Procrastination

When I got done with the last blog, I decided to use the formula I prescribed and cleaned my desk in just two 15 minute segments!  It felt so good.  I still was surrounded by a pool table of papers, (where some of the papers from my desktop went), a roll top desk I no longer use regularly that has been the collection site for everything I wanted to get “out of sight” in a hurry when cleaning up for visitors. Isn’t that the purpose of a roll top anyway?

In other words, I wasn’t done by a long shot. So in a couple days I decided to attack the pool table and get closer to the goal of a cleaned up basement. Why didpool table b4 I procrastinate another couple days? I learned that one of the reasons I put things off is I don’t want to make all the decisions that come with dealing with papers and “stuff”.  “Do I file or throw away? What if I need this in the future?” etc.  Subconsciously these were stumbling blocks for me. When I finally decided to “go for it”, I set my trusty timer for 15 timer1minutes and voila! That’s all it took to clean up a mess I had been tolerating (and that was bugging me every time I came into the basement) for a month! I couldn’t believe it.pool table

 

I thought of a couple of questions that helped me with the first two I “feared”. “Is the cost of replacement of this item so high I need to keep it ‘just in case’? Will it be outdated and useless in a year from now anyway?” That really helped me get rid of some things. Next I confronted the roll top – more decisions, easier this time. It took 30 minutes to do it but knowing it’s clean under that top was like getting rid of a “boogy man” in my life! I no longer fear something jumping out to bite me or fall on my foot when I open it!roll top

Is there anything you are putting off?  Break it down to smaller parts. Go at it in 15 minute segments. Celebrate when you make progress and share with the rest of us what you have learned

Do you ever procrastinate?

Are you a procrastinator?  Better question – do you procrastinate sometimes?

We need to be careful not to just “pick up” unwanted identities and start wearing them like our most comfortable pair of shoes!  I think everyone has procrastinated at something, sometime in their life.

If you find yourself doing this regularly, it’s worth a look.  In my case, it seems I procrastinate on the “important” stuff or maybe that’s just when I really notice I’m doing it.  This topic of procrastination is a close relative of the question “What are you tolerating?” Asking myself that question a while back led to a lot of profound discoveries and also, eventually, a lot of completed projects!

Understanding the “WHY” behind my aberrant behavior often helps me confront and overcome the problem. So now I’m asking myself, “Why am I procrastinating on things I really want to do, enjoy doing and feel are important to get done?”  Joyce Meyer did a talk on fear being the root cause of procrastination. I don’t disagree, but personally I need to break that down into something I can wrap my mind around. Why would I “fear” keeping my work area neat and organized or putting the final touches on a project I’ve been working on for years and have dreamt about accomplishing?

Let’s go back to the concept of wearing an identity like a pair of comfortable shoes. Who will I “be” once I’ve completed the major project or accomplished that coveted goal? The fear of the unknown is a very subtle motivator and one we often don’t admit. Getting out of our “comfort zones” especially in the area of personal identity, is more uncommon than you may think.

But let’s bring this back down to earth and my cluttered desk. When I look at it, I know I always have something to do – cleaning my desk (and all the little “mini tasks” each of those papers represent) is something I am familiar with! By the time I finish that task, I might not have the time to tackle the more uncomfortable tasks of learning that new program on the computer, or making the calls to potential customers or an old friend or relative that’s been on my mind but I haven’t spoken to in years. Hence keeping a little clutter around provides that “buffer zone” of familiarity and a good excuse not to launch right into the more uncomfortable tasks.

Here are just a couple things I’ve found to do that help me “cross the line” and get some of these things done – FINALLY.

  1. Write down on a piece of paper just 2 or 3 things you have procrastinated doing.
  2. Identify what you think it would mean if you actually did the task and how it would make you feel once it was completed.
  3. Afraid of failure or success? Would it launch you into a whole new way of looking at yourself?
  4. Once you’ve identified some of these possible emotions, there is nothing to do about them, just take note.
  5. Then break the task down into bite size elements of 15-30 minutes increments.
  6. Identify one thing you can accomplish in the next 15 minutes, set a timer and START!
  7. If you didn’t quite complete it in the first 15 minutes, set the timer for another 15 and go at it again. You’ll be surprised at what you can get done!

For me, the hardest part is just starting – especially if it is a huge mess or complicated process. Just identify a couple things you can do and dig in. There is a great sense of satisfaction in getting at least ONE thing done you set out to do! You’ll be surprised at how much fun you have and how quickly you move along. The main thing is kicking out that sense of guilt or shame that haunts you when you think about or see the “_____________” (fill in the blank) that you have been putting off.

One last thing, if you struggle with your desk and paper clutter along with me, here is a little technique a friend shared with me that works great. Take all the papers in the area you are trying to unclutter and sort them into three piles.

  1. First pile represents those things that will take a minute or less to accomplish (relating to that piece of paper)
  2. Second pile represents tasks that MUST be accomplished this next week
  3. Third pile represents things that can be put off for 2 or more weeks. You can start over with that pile the following week and pull out the next week’s important business.
  4. Go back to your first pile and get those handled. You can then plan out your week to accomplish the second pile and get the third pile out of sight, to address later. VOILA! A clean desk!

I would love your feedback! Was this helpful? Have any ideas or tips that could help the rest of us?  Please share!