Posts Tagged ‘Thought Life’

Some counselors talk about “how to cope with stress.” I’ll be honest with you: I’m not interested in “coping” with stress. I had a cold a couple of weeks ago.  I didn’t want my doctor to give me a three point plan to cope with it.  I want to eliminate worry and stress. I don’t want to get used to it, I want to get rid of it. In Philippians 4, Paul shows us how we can do just that. He begins by saying…
(v. 6) Do not worry about anything.

Now, this is easier said than done. Everyone knows that worry isn’t good, yet everyone does it from time to time. The only thing more futile than worry is telling someone not to worry. But Paul does much more than just say “Don’t worry.” He tells us exactly how to stop worrying. Do you have worries? Here’s how you can get rid of them.

1. Make everything a matter of prayer

(v. 6) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

2. Point your thoughts in the right direction

Our thoughts control us. In the Bible, King Solomon said, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)

What do you think about all day? When you wake up in the morning, what thoughts go through your mind? How you think during the first few minutes of the day can set the pace for the entire day.

You could begin each day by saying, “This is the day that Lord has made! I’m above ground and my heart is still beating, so it’s a great day! I’ve got many things to look forward to. Today, I’m going to make progress on my problems. Today, God will be with me every step of the way. Today, God will cause all things to work together for good. Today, God will give me the opportunity to serve him in some capacity. Today, I will encourage my family. Today, I will show God’s love to everyone I meet.”

Do you see how empowering this can be? If you point your thoughts in the right direction at the beginning of each day, your worries will not have room to squeeze in. This is why Paul says…

(v. 8) Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

These 8 things serve as filters that help us reject certain thoughts and prevent us from putting garbage into our minds. You don’t have to throw your TV and radio in the trash, but you do need to be selective in what you put into your mind.  Let verse 8 be your remote control controller.

Paul teaches that a crucial step in eliminating worry or anxiety is to think the way you ought to think—point your thoughts in the right direction. Thirdly…

3. Take action against your worries

Many people resign themselves to their worries and do nothing. They tell themselves there is nothing they can do, and they wait for the worst to happen. As a result, their worries get bigger and bigger, and things get worse and worse. Doing nothing is fertilizer for anxiety—it causes your worry to spread out of control. Taking action is weed-killer. It removes worries once and for all. Paul said,

(v. 9) Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Paul goes out on a limb with this statement. He was speaking to a church that knew him well. He had lived with them and served with them. If he said, “Do not worry” but was himself always stressed out and full of anxiety, they wouldn’t have bought what he was saying. However, Paul’s life did match his message, and he could say with confidence, “Follow my example. Do what I do, and you’ll have God’s peace in your life.”

There is a principle here for us to learn. Do you know someone who has a handle on worry? Follow their example. Do you know someone who can go through stressful situations without coming unglued? Then handle your problems the way they handle their problems.

What I see in the lives of people who do not worry is a commitment to take responsible action. Doers aren’t worriers, and worriers aren’t doers. If you take action in the direction of whatever it is you that worries you, your worries will disappear. Paul said, in effect, “You’ve heard me say it, you’ve seen me do it, now—put it into practice yourself—take action.”

What kind of action should you take? Well, what are you worried about? Is it your marriage? Then do something that will strengthen the bond or open the lines of communication. Are you worried about losing your job? Make an effort to protect yourself and get your resume ready. Are you worried about your health? Take steps to become more healthy. It’s as simple as this: Taking action destroys worry.

It comes down to this. The cure for worry and anxiety is to pray like you ought to pray, think like you ought to think, and act like you ought to act. Your worries will disappear, and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your heart and mind.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine


To play the game you need a bunch of kids and an elevated surface of some kind – a box, a rock, a small incline. The object of the game: try to push everyone else out of the way so you can get to the top and once at the top, try to stay there by pushing away those who would challenge your position.

King of the Hill – do you remember playing this game when you were a kid? Do you remember actually being “the king?”

We’re a lot older now and somebody would get hurt if we tried to play this game. But figuratively speaking, a lot of us still do play King of the Hill. Some of us play it in our careers, trying to push our way to the top of the ladder regardless of who we have to step on or what we have to do. Some of us play it by trying to stay one step ahead of everyone else with the biggest toys or latest fashions or biggest portfolio. And some of us play the game in the way we approach our relationships, which is what I want to address.

How do you play the relationship version of King of the Hill? Basically, relational King of the Hill works the same way as the kids’ game does, except that the goal is not to take charge of a box or a rock or a mound. The goal is to take charge of other people, and to take charge of them without their permission. The goal is to order the world around you the way you want it, with little regard for the feelings of the other people in your life. The goal is to seize and maintain the upper hand in relational interactions.

Pretty scary stuff when you think about it, because this is the kind of game that dictators and terrorists become aware of and master at a very early age. But for the rest of us, it isn’t something that we necessarily choose to play. My hunch is that most people play this game without even knowing they are doing it. Everyone else around them may know that they are playing, but they don’t. All they know is that for some reason, they keep having the same kind of struggles in relationships, but they never know why – until the day somebody reminds them in no uncertain terms that God did not relinquish His position to them. At that point, they have the option of continuing to play or ending the game by learning new patterns of relating.

I am going to share a few thought on this topic over the next several days.  I need to say something very important right up front. If you regularly play relational King of The Hill, some of this will be hard to take and it could sting a little.

My plan is to point out some of the pattern and suggesting new and better ways of relating because what almost always happens to people who play this game is they face a heart load of rejection and isolation. Once the people around them catch on to the game, they create a distance. Or if they can’t leave, they emotionally disconnect. They may smile at us, or even go along with us, but their hearts are far from us.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Jeremiah 20:7-12

This topic is a matter that none of us are immune to – depression. I’m not sure if this is 100% accurate but I have always thought of the mulligrubs as the way a person expresses depression or simply the “blues” to those he or she comes in contact with.

According to the most comprehensive U.S. mental health survey, almost half of all Americans experience mental illness at some time in their lives, and almost a third are afflicted in any one year. (Survey: who do you know in this room who might be experiencing mental illness right now?)

The study also found that the most common disorder was the major depressive episode – the exhibition of at least two weeks of symptoms such as low mood and loss of pleasure.

All of us either have struggled or will struggle with depressive episodes or The Mulligrubs. This is because of all the bad things that happen in our world; there are so many problems, so many difficulties, and our world is so complex that almost all of us are touched by sin, hurt, violence, rejection, and other things that are beyond our control. The next time you buy gas listen to your fellow customers.

Often we find ourselves in situations where we try to do the right thing, yet we always seem to end up with the short end of the stick. Jeremiah was someone like this, a man who had a very clear sense of purpose, but couldn’t seem to catch a break. It caused him to be depressed.

Today we’re going to discuss three ways to escape the mulligrubs—but first let’s look at the . . .

Three Causes Of The Mulligrubs

Frustration The first cause of Jeremiah’s depression was frustration because he felt that God had deceived him. God gave him something to say, and he assumed that if he followed God’s will, the outcome would be positive. It is very common to be right in the center of God’s will and be surrounded by trouble.  Now, a little bit of frustration is part of life, but when we continually beat our heads against the wall, it eventually starts to hurt. This is frustrating, and frustration can develop and lead to depression.

Hurt – Later, Jeremiah says, “I am ridiculed all day long, everyone mocks me.” When we are rejected by the people who are important to us, it can hurt so deeply that it can lead to depression which gets expressed as, you guessed it: MULLIGRUBS.

Fear – We see in verse 10 that Jeremiah’s heart was gripped with fear because he was surrounded by people waiting for him to make a mistake; even his friends were waiting to rejoice in his failures.

In that mode of fear, our minds can play tricks and begin to create anxieties and fears that don’t exist – this kind of fear can bring on depressive feelings. We wonder why we are so lethargic, have no energy, and have lost interest in things we previously enjoyed. That kind of depression makes it difficult to feel motivated to do anything at all.

These causes of depression finally led Jeremiah to ask God, “Why did you even let me be born?”

I want to share an important truth with you: Life is difficult. There are not always answers to our problems, and we can’t fix everything. When life is bad, we feel down, grieve our losses, and experience the gloom of depression.

You may think that Christians are not supposed to be depressed, but you are wrong – depression and grief are normal human reactions. Christians should not remain depressed, but they can certainly be depressed. Jeremiah responded to his depression with the words: “I would rather not have lived if I have to live this way.”

Still today, some people respond to depression with suicidal thoughts. Others respond with a spending spree, or an eating binge, or getting drunk or high on drugs. Of course, after the binge or the spree is over, the depression is deepened because there are now consequences which must be dealt with. Responding to depression these ways never help, but only make things worse.

There are many separate issues involved in depression, but the reality is this: If we respond to depressive feelings in a negative way, we create an environment which only causes more depression. The question, then, is how do we defeat depression? How do we escape the MULLIGRUBS?

1. Examine your  Season Of Life

The first thing Jeremiah did to help him deal with depression was determine what season he was in. God has seasons of life for us as people just like there are seasons in nature.

There is Winter, when it seems there is no growth and everything is barren; there is Spring, a season of planting; there is Summer, a season of great activity; and there is Fall when we are able to bring in a harvest.

I wish we could all live in harvest season all the time, but we can’t always live in a time of harvest, because in order to harvest we must first plant. And we must remember that without Winter, there won’t be a good harvest the following year. It is natural to have depressive feelings when we experience loss. If we lose a loved one, a job, anything precious to us, we should feel grief.  Where would B.B. King be without the blues!

God told Jeremiah that, “Before you were ever born, I picked you to be a spokesman for me.” That’s a pretty impressive way to begin your life! Jeremiah prophesied for God, but his words didn’t come true and everyone ridiculed and laughed at him.

He prophesied this way for years, until finally his Fall came and things began to happen. Everything he had prophesied came true, so he was able to realize that things had been working out the way they were supposed to all along, but he had to pass through the seasons first.

We need to develop discernment so we can see where we are in our lives. We can’t always be in harvest time, but the good news is that Winter does not last forever – Spring follows with new life, new opportunities, and new hopes. Then Summer….Then Fall.

2. Understand God Is Always At Work

In order to make it through the mulligrubs, we also must understand that God is at work even when He seems silent. Even when God does not seem to be doing anything, He is examining, probing, or looking around our world; He cares even when we accuse Him of neglect.

We can even express our feelings to God – it won’t bother Him or hurt His feelings if we tell Him how lousy our lives are and why we think it is all His fault. In fact, the best thing we can do is pour our hearts out to God, just as the best thing to do for a depressed person is allow them to unpack their feelings.

We also see in the Scripture that Jeremiah challenged God’s character, saying, “O Lord you deceived me.” But he also realized that in the end God will bring justice, even if it is not on our timeline.

We need everything NOW, but God does not work that way. We may think God is silent, but then all of a sudden we realize that He has been working in us, changing us, all along.

Our perspective on a situation has changed, or we have grown a little more, proving that God has been at work.

3. Learn to Praise God Anyway

The third way to escape the mulligrubs is to praise God in spite of our situation and circumstances. What can we praise Him for in the midst of our rejections and frustrations?

We can always praise Him because we have hope in God’s faithfulness. As this is His very nature, it is impossible for Him to be unfaithful. I wrote a song a couple of years ago on this topic:

He will be there for you in the storms of life,
He will hold your hand, He will dry your eyes;
When this world holds out no hope for you,
He will be there, He will carry you through.
And whatever the pain you feel inside,
He’s been there, done that, made it out alive,
Jesus will be there, He will be there.
(© 2008 AsALarke Music Publishing, BMI)

Many years ago there was a lawyer in the Midwest who fell into such a terrible depression that his friends came into his home and removed all the knives and razors because they feared he might try to kill himself. In the midst of this depression he wrote, “I am the most miserable man living. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell.” God helped him through his difficult time and this man went on to become one of the greatest presidents our country has ever known: Abraham Lincoln.

The next time you are tempted to get the mulligrubs do yourself (and us) a favor.  Read Philippians 4:6-7 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Practice this three-point plan.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

I have found myself saying the words, “Thank God” a lot this week.  It probably has a great deal to do with the fact that my first grandbaby, Charlie, was born Tuesday, September 7.  I kept looking at him and his dad and mom, saying, “thank you, thank you, thank you, God!” 

My mind sometimes travels down some strange paths at the most unusual times.  I was standing at the hospital nursery window and I remembered the following story:

Back in the days before automobiles, there was a traveling salesman who acquired a mule for use in his business. He was so appreciative that he would begin each trip by thanking God for providing the mule. Eventually the animal learned that “Thank God” meant to go. When they reached their destination, the salesman would again give a prayer of thanks, concluding with “Amen.” And so the mule learned that “Amen” meant to stop.

Before long, the business prospered and the salesman was able to upgrade to a horse. Having no need of the mule, the salesman sold him to another businessman in town. He explained the necessary commands and with a “Thank God”, the mule and its new owner were off.

Well, it was such a nice day and the ride so enjoyable that before long the businessman forgot everything else, until he suddenly realized that he was heading for the edge of a high cliff.

“Whoa!” he said to the mule, but the mule did not whoa. “Stop!” he commanded, but the mile did not stop. Frantically pulling on the reigns, the man yelled out a desperate prayer: “O God, please save me!–Amen.” With that the mule came to an abrupt stop, just in the nick of time, at the edge of the cliff.

Breathing a sigh of relief, the man said, “Thank God.”

Perhaps you can go overboard with saying it but I’m not so sure you can overdo the attitude of gratitude for a God who moment by moment pours out his blessings on undeserving people like me.  There are just some times when one “thank you” won’t do.

Baby, Mom, and Dad did an amazing job with the birth thing.  I was having contractions in the waiting room but thank God, I pulled through also.  Thanks again God!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

I ended yesterday’s blog writing that I would pick up today with a look at the causes of a mid-life crisis.  As I began thinking about the causes I realized that it could be summed up in one word: EMPTINESS;  Or at least a sense of emptiness.  It is that gnawing feeling that there is something out there better than what I have experienced to this point in my life. 

Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, who, despite his reputation for being the wisest man to ever live, had what seems to be a mid-life crisis; see if Solomon’s pattern doesn’t sound familiar. Like most people, Solomon wanted certain things out of life: happiness, love, success, and meaning. And like many young adults, his search for truth and meaning directed his attention to the study of philosophy.

He read the great writers of the day and contemplated the great historical ideologies. He pitted one world view against the other and dissected them all. He studied the prevailing explanations for the purpose of life, and when he had thoroughly examined all the textbooks and theories and arguments of the day, he concluded…  “So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.” Eccle. 2:17

He’s not saying that philosophy has no value, but the wisest man in the world (which is how the Bible describes Solomon) took philosophy as far as it can be taken and concluded that he will never find ultimate soul satisfaction in the pages of a book or in another man’s opinion of the meaning of life. “It’s like chasing the wind,” he says.

He crossed philosophy off his list and turned his attention to self-indulgence and self-gratification. Ecclesiastes 2 reveals how Solomon pulled all the stops in pleasure seeking. He drank only the best wine, he built gardens and parks and ponds in order to surround himself with beauty and splendor; he hired the best musicians in the world to perform for him at his request; he assembled harems of beautiful young women so that he could live out his sexual fantasies. He sums it up by saying… “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure…yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 2:10

He tried philosophy, he tried pleasure, and next, he tried possessions. He built mansions for himself–one took 13 years to build that had precious stones in the foundation walls. He accumulated large herds and planted the forests and vineyards. He collected art and treasures from all over the world. In spite of all he was able to accumulate, he came to the conclusion that it is all meaningless.

Next, he poured himself into his work. It wasn’t long before he realized that this too was meaningless. He said, So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety?  Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 2:22-23 (NLT)

For the next ten chapters of this book, Solomon discusses his search of happiness, love, success, and meaning–yet that gnawing sense of something missing would not go away.

I began by summing up the cause of mid-life crisis with one world, emptiness.  Let me end with a one word cure for mid-life crisis:  CONTENTMENT.  Take a little while each day to stop looking over in the neighbor’s yard at how much greener his or her grass is and enjoy your own.  Besides, the greenest spot in my yard is over the septic tank and drain field!  What does that tell you?

In the end, Solomon experienced the ultimate benefit of a mid-life quest. His search for “something more” took him down several dead end paths, and he finally realized what was missing. In Ecclesiastes 12:13 the wisest man in the world came to this conclusion: Fear God, keep his commandments; this is the whole duty of man.

The most important discovery you can make, at mid-life or any time of life, is that the meaning of life can be found in a relationship with God–fearing him and keeping his commandments.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

A few years back USA Today quoted Dr. Michael Jazwinski of the LSU Medical Center as saying, “some people who are now living may still be alive 400 years from now.” In his study, one hundred top aging experts were interviewed and many believe that “based on the expectation of manipulating a manageable number of human genes that control aging, 400 to 700 year life spans may be possible in few decades.”

Who knows how I will feel about this at ninety-nine, but I’m just not sure I really want to live that long. I’ve got crow’s feet, I wake up with a sore back, and I can’t remember where I put my glasses half the time and I make about seven trips to the bathroom each night.  Imagine what kind of shape I’ll be in on my 400th birthday. If I died at the age of 400 they certainly wouldn’t let me donate my body to science. They wouldn’t even let me donate my body to science fiction.

Did you know that in the year 1900, the average life expectancy in this country was only 47 years? Today it is 75 years, which, statistically, puts the “mid” point in life at about 37-38 years of age. Generally speaking “mid-life” covers the years between 35-50, give or take a few. In fact, if you’re wondering whether or not you’ve reached middle age, here’s a few guidelines. Mid-life is…

…when you stop criticizing the older generation and start criticizing the younger generation.

…when you’re sitting at home on Saturday night, the phone rings, and you hope that it isn’t for you.

…when you’re more interested in how long your car will last than how fast it will go.

…when you begin saying things like, “When I was your age…”

…when the one telling you to slow down is a doctor, not a policeman.

During this mid-life time there is a phenomenon called a mid-life crisis that often strikes people as they pass through this particular season of life. First of all, let’s look at…

TIP #1. What is a mid-life crisis?

One morning I was walking around before the Sunday service meeting new people. I approached a young lady, maybe 20 years old, and said, “Hi. Is this is your first time here?” She said, “Yes it is.” I said, “Glad you’re here. My name is Billy Ready.” She said, “Nice to meet you,” then looked at my picture on the wall of pastors, then looked back at me and said, “Oh you’re the pastor? I didn’t recognize you from the picture. You’ve aged.” I graciously smiled, thanked her, and hobbled to my seat. If I wasn’t quite at the point of crisis, her remark pushed me over the edge.

I recently read of a survey of “40 somethings” that was conducted. One of the questions I was “What is a mid-life crisis?” Here are some of their answers.

“It’s realizing that your life is half over and you haven’t accomplished enough–not enough money saved, no outstanding career accomplishments…may you’re not the winner you always though you would be.”

A man who said he feels he’s currently experiencing a mid-life crisis wrote, “I find myself starting to think about all the decisions I’ve made in my life and if I made the right ones. Is there still time to fix the mistakes? Or is there no turning back now?”

Another person described a mid-life crisis this way, “It’s a point in your life when you realize that your youth has passed and you begin to feel regrets about your past and fears about your future.”

Someone else wrote, “It’s when you ask yourself, ‘Is this all there is?’ I don’t even really feel grown up and yet I’m already old.” (Here’s one I can still relate to!)

Mid-life is that period between 35 and 50 and it is inevitable. You can’t avoid mid-life anymore than you can avoid adolescence. If you live long enough, it’s a passage you will go through. However, a mid-life crisis is not inevitable. Some people enter and pass through mid-life without any trouble at all. Others find the transition to be very unsettling. Regardless, the undeniable fact is that between the ages of 35 and 50, changes do take place…

  • Physically–less energy, graying hair, health problems.
  • Vocationally–you’re likely to reach the peak of your professional life, and you have to accept the fact that this is far up the ladder as you may ever go.
  • Relationally–your children get older, they move away, you may even find yourself caring for your aging parents, and statistically the chances of going through a divorce increase.
  • Financially–as you close in on retirement you may not be as comfortable financially as you thought you would be at this point.

When a person has two or three of these stresses occurring at the same time, well, mid-life can easily turn into a mid-life crisis.

Here’s a stereo-typical mid-life crisis scenario: a man in his early forties–bald, got a bit of a belly, stuck in a job he doesn’t like, going nowhere in his marriage, up to his neck in debt, and completely “locked-in” to his place in life–goes to his 25 year high-school reunion and suddenly begins to evaluate his life. He says, “My life is half-over. At best I’ve got maybe another 30 years left. I’ve worked my fingers to the bone and lived at a hectic pace, and what do I have to show for it? Why am I so unfulfilled? What is the meaning and purpose of it all?”

When we’re young we feel invincible, but one day reality comes crashing in on us and we realize that we’re not getting any younger and that life is slipping away from us. The disillusionment can be devastating.

Tomorrow I want to pick up with what causes Mid-Life Crisis.  Let me do something that I don’t do often enough,  thank the people who have poured this information into my life.  I am nowhere near smart enough to think these tips up on my own.  You know who you are (and may be wondering if I ever have an original idea!).  Thanks.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine


Posted: May 12, 2010 in Life!

3.  The third practical action step is to win in the Critical Moment. 

What is meant by “in the Critical Moment?”  In every battle there is a moment in time when the soldiers will either seize the moment or the moment will seize them.  They will either take the battle to the enemy or surrender.  Here’s how this works out in your thought life. Let’s say you have the remote control and you’re flipping through the channels one evening and it lands on that program, the one where the people are on the island and there’s those exotic women trying to seduce everybody.  Gilligan’s Island not Temptation Island.  What guy my age didn’t have trouble with his thought life with Ginger and Mary Ann?

But here’s the point.  In that moment, you get to decide.  And it’s a critical moment.  You get to decide whether or not you will linger, whether or not you will cross the line and allow your mind to go to a place that you know is unhealthy.  It is your decision.    

Don’t minimize that moment.

In Genesis there’s a great story; it is the story of Cain and Abel.  Cain despised Abel and eventually killed him.  In Genesis 4 it says these words “God said to Cain, ‘If you do not do what is right sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

The thought, the temptation as it initially comes to your mind is not a sin.  I sort of have this picture of sin sort of crouching beside us in that critical moment waiting to see whether or not we’re going to cross the line into something that is unhealthy for us.  Win the battle in the critical moment.  Escape the island and move on to the Weather Channel!