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Anticipation 

October 12, 2017

Anticipation has the tendency to do several things:

First, it fills the mind. Every small space, each vacant moment soon gets filled with thoughts around that which is being anticipated. Even in those brief moments when you can’t remember what it was you were thinking about, the feelings of anticipation still lingers reminding you there was something on your mind.

Second, anticipation exaggerates the issue being thought about. In other words anticipation swells whatever is being thought of to make it bigger. Be it something good like a vacation; which we idealize. Or be is something bad like an exam; which we catastrophize.

Third, anticipation consumes energy. It is constantly calling out from us those increasingly rare emotional reserves. At night those thoughts keep us awake, and add to our exhaustion. 

By and large most of our anticipation is involuntary. We do not think about the anticipation itself we simply fuel the thing being anticipated. Obviously when it is something pleasant anticipation can serve as a distraction which helps the mundane moments of our day pass more quickly. But when it is unpleasant it can ruin our mood which can spill out on others and further sour our circumstances.

All this is to remind us to manage our thought life, discipline them, control where we allow our minds to wander. Choose what we will anticipate so that it shapes our day in ways that are pleasant. Limit the time we allow our minds to dwell on the not so pleasant. Most of your attitudes will be indirect response to where your mind dwells.

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Space to think with God

September 28, 2017

I have said a few times in different contexts that I just need space to think. Thinking is a slow process, a lost art in much of society, it is an acquired skill that few know how to develop and mature. Often when I feel overwhelmed it is because this sacred space has been violated; pushed out by some interloper.

Much of thinking is hard work. The first step is to become quiet to arrest all the darting thoughts, to corral all the floating hazy notions, to press pause on the auto play function of my mind.

The second step is to take inventory. To categorize and put words to my rambling thoughts, to name the driving emotions, to mine beneath the surface of my reactions and identify what is driving what. This brutal, honest introspection is a battleground. I find myself fighting with me. Sometimes coming to grips with truth, even though I am only trying to whisper it to myself is very intimidating but unless this reality is voiced, until this analysis, which names and voices, is completed I will not have the real data which will allow for proper thinking.

The third step is to wait until I have made peace with the chaos I have now just made. After turning everything upside down, shaking and tossing, ripping and poking, now I must wait until everything settles. Until I have forgiven myself for all that I found and mourned all that I lost, and allowed the throbbing from the freshly exposed, recently probed pains to subside.

Then I turn more formally to God. All the while He has been leading this process but I was the one doing the acting. Now He must act, as this is when I ask Him to help me order my concerns, to offer solutions, wisdom, insight, next steps or simply the grace to continue to be faithful in the tension of those things not yet resolved, needing more light, still being worked out, or nascent in their development.

Once I find that God has spoken, I often have a clear or clearer next step, until I need to come and think with Him again. Peace will have replaced the chaos, certainty will have overwhelmed the doubt and energy will have been restored.

I then need simply to make the next possible step in the actions required, to push the first domino, so to speak.

This is what I need to do, more often then I now am doing. I need time to “just” think.

Seeking

September 14, 2017

It has dawned on me that more often the Bible talks about the blessings that come from seeking God, not necessarily the blessings of finding Him. In other words, it is as if God looks upon our “chasing after Him”, our pursuit of relationship, our desire to know Him and it is in our seeking – not the finding -that we find there are many blessings.

Ironically those very blessings can become distractions from finding the real prize we seek. I don’t believe these come to tempt us, but blessings cannot help but follow in the wake of God’s trail. We should not get lost in those good things that come from seeking God, but recognize them as signs that we are getting closer to Him.

At the same time we should not assume that feeling “blessing-less” is necessarily indication that we are not “on His trail”. These might be the times in which God is refining our motives to see if our seeking is after Him or merely for those blessings that follow. God wants to bless us, but not at the expense of tainting our hearts. When He can bless fully without the risk of those good things become idols for our desires, then we can draw ever close to the very heart and presence of His person – the true prize and object of out seeking!

Exploring

August 31, 2017

As I was driving this morning, watching all the cars, staying in lanes, signalling turns, stopping together, moving together it occurred to me that it all seemed so mundane, predictable, mandated. 

I wondered how it was that I became controlled in such a blasé form of exploration. The only places I could go is where others had gone before me. I remembered back to the days when I would have to walk. I would jump onto walls, balance along railway tracks, cut corners, go across fields blazing a trail through long uncut grass every journey was an adventure, a discovery.

This whole consideration got me thinking, what if we were made to explore, to blaze a trail where others had not gone, and to go off the beaten path. Maybe this is why people have volunteered for the Mars One exploration. A one way journey to Mars to colonize the red planet. 

But what if that desire to explore and journey is God-given? And what if you and I will not be fully satisfied as humans until we explore in the three places to which only we can go? What if our starting exploration is not out in space but deeper within ourselves? For many people their own inner lives are largely unexplored. They are unfamiliar with their own hearts and fooled by their own self-deception.

The second place people are given the desire to explore is the person, character and presence of the eternal God. No one has ever exhausted the depths of His being. There is always so much more of God to be known, but few take God up on His invitation to know Him in deeper and greater ways.

The third place of exploration spills out from the previous two, as we know who we are and who God is we are able to explore our place in God’s mission out into the world.

It was as I was thinking these things that I realized the car behind me was honking, the advanced green light was blinking and I needed to get going. Perhaps there is now a green light blinking for you… what are you waiting for? Go explore!

Cottage thoughts

August 17, 2017

Sitting in the early morning (but not that early). Embracing being still, acclimatizing myself to agendalessness, unwinding. I think if nature teaches anything about how life ought to be lived it teaches that being steady is preferred to being speedy:
– The sunrises and sets predictably
– The seasons change gradually but deliberately
– The crops grow
– The tide rises
– Time passes
Nothing can stop the steady and sure advance towards their goal even though it is known. And so too do people age, and so too will Christ come. He is not rushed or hurried but He is steadfast and sure. So too should we imitate a life of steady and sure progress against the temptation to be quick.
Maybe we were not made to go fast in that way. Perhaps the lessons we need to learn, the longings we are seeking in our speedy journey toward our goals are only found in the slow and calm meditative moments of the journey. Perhaps we were made similar to the rest of nature – to go steadily not speedily.

What you might inadvertently be doing to destroy the life you always wanted!

January 13, 2016

I’ve read that the way Arctic aboriginals  would catch a wolf was by freezing blood around the blade of a sharp hunting knife and burying the handle in the snow so that the blade is sticking up. The wolf would smell the blood and start licking the frozen knife until it exposed the blade. The blade would slice the wolf’s tongue and it would eventually die as it’s appetite for blood caused it to literally consume itself to death.

I see the same appetite driven, self-consumption happen in people’s lives also. They may not be licking on a blade but they keep investing in the thing that is destroying them. However, the main difference between the wolf and people is that people rationalize their behaviour and willfully engage in self-deception.

Allow me to give you a few examples:

  • A person feels embarrassed, guilty and afraid because they are seriously over weight. In fact, although the media, the mirror and their mother all remind them that they should be losing weight, it was the last doctors visit that really convinced them of the need. But now all of the negative emotions are crushing in on them. So what do they do? To make them feel better they decide to give themselves a treat. A big bowl of ice cream ought to do the trick. The next morning the ice cream is gone, but the guilt has increased – along with their weight. “I’ll never lose the weight. The doctor said if I keep it up I’ll have a stroke or a heart attack in a year!” And by the end of the day they’ve scared themselves into eating nothing but celery and an apple. Feeling better they decide to treat themselves, after all they deserved it because they had hardly eaten anything all day.
  • A person with a fixed, limited income who is barely making ends meet and who has acquired a small debt finds $20 on the ground. It wouldn’t make that big a dent on their debt but they might just get lucky at the casino. The evening ends and they walk out of the casino another $50 short for their rent. The only solution they can think of to get out of their problem… you guessed it, tickets in the lottery, or more time in the casino. After all they figure they were bound to get lucky and hit it big eventually weren’t they?
  • A person desperate for a relationship finally meets someone they think is “the one”. The relationship starts to get a bit bumpy, and so they compromise their values, cross boundaries and silence their conscience to avoid disappointing their date and causing tension which could put the relationship at risk of ending. Of course, over time, the relationship does end but now the person is older, feeling even more desperate, and “well” they reason to themselves, “I’ve already compromised. I’m not fooling anyone by trying to stick to my old standards.” Before you know it they get passed around and used in one relationship to another. Their longing for the intimacy of a shared life and a supportive partner continues to drive their relationship mismanagement. 
  • A nation of people experience a growing national crisis of escalating gun violence in their streets. While they feel bad for those people, they don’t feel it should impinge upon them. So they reason, we need more citizens carrying guns in order to protect themselves. Surely if everyone had a gun their would be less gun violence!

They have allowed strong, internal desires to drive distorted thinking which leads them in cyclical, destructive patterns. What is needed is to change the way they think and reason. They must let their clear thinking, dictate to their desires and will themselves to conform to what they know is best.

Such personal discipline is an increasingly rare treat. It takes rigorous, mental energy to be self reflective and appropriately self critical. Maybe you’ll consider such a discipline, but not now. Your favourite T.V. show is on, you know the mindless, stupid one that makes you feel good. 

I do it. Do you?

December 31, 2015

Every year at this time we read or hear of people’s penchant for either making New Year’s resolution or scorning them. By and large I find that most people lean towards the latter. “Why commit to something I know I won’t keep?” is their rationale.

I understand their thinking and sympathize. More than once I’ve solemnly told myself what I would resolve to do or not do only to find that “the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak.” And yet…

Perhaps the word “resolve” is too strong. Surely there are too many variables in life to be able to take control and resolve anything but what about setting a few goals? I’m a strong advocate for goal setting.

Goal setting is about heading towards a determined destination rather than drifting aimlessly. It’s about leading your own life through careful deliberation rather than being jerked around by circumstance and emotions.

With all the hype over the latest Star Wars movie, I’ve been re-watching the originals. I find myself bristle every time I hear the mantra to “trust your feelings Luke…” I find more often than not it is the trusting in one’s feelings that gets so many people’s lives into turmoil.

Goal setting is my way of taking back control; of me choosing the course that the New Year will launch towards. Sure I don’t always reach all of my goals. But I reach some and I come close to others – much closer than I would if I had never set any goals to begin with.

And so with the end of 2015, I thought I would encourage you to take a few minutes to consider where you want to be a year from now. Perhaps you may even want to write that down somewhere and jot out how you might achieve it – in other words set a few goals. I do it. Do you?

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