Sunday, November 17, 2013

Step One: Your Mind

Step One: Your Mind
Peggy Mack
October 23, 2013

Morning devotions are such a wonderful addition to waking up each morning and yes, I am so blessed because I am retired and have the peace of leisure mornings.  I can remember flying out the door in the rain with toddlers and diaper bags in tow trying to get them to Mrs. Everitt's home to care for them while I taught first grade in an inner city school.  I arrived at school by 7am and have no idea, in looking back, how I ever pulled that off.  You do what you have to do and what you love.  So, this morning, in my studies I discovered a Bible verse that has my mind joyfilled with the thought that I can do more than put Christ in my thoughts.....I can, with the Holy Spirit, have the mind of Christ in me.  Here's the verse: 

1 Corinthians 2:13-16

New International Version (NIV)

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord
    so as to instruct him?

But we have the mind of Christ.
We have the mind of Christ.  I find that to be such an amazing gift from God.  How often I have needed God to crawl inside my head and to take over for me or to direct me so clearly that I would not stumble and fall and make critical mistakes.  I needed Christ in my crisis.  I needed to think clearly, calmly and wisely.

Robert Schuler was one of my favorite inspirational authors and his Power of Positive Thinking was a book my dad often quoted in his last years. While mother was in Birmingham having open heart surgery on her mitral valve ten weeks after dad had died, I sat alone in the cardiac surgical waiting room at UAB hospital reading his book. The surgery took longer than I was indicated to me and I found myself going from the filled and noisy waiting room to the first floor chapel. Throughout that long day and the next ten days of her stay there I made it my choice to stay in a positive mind and close to prayer. I was not trying to impress anyone. I knew this was a day of my own episode of survival while mother's life and heart were in the hands of Dr. Pasifico. I overheard other families dealing with those same frightening challenges of having a loved ones life hanging in the balance. One family of six gathered every hour on the hour and stood in a circle in family prayer. The love for each other and the family member who was in surgery was amazing to witness as was their belief in prayer. Another family, whose son had been shot were gathering as they learned the news and were filled with visible anger and promises to get even. The rage within in them was so great that you could feel it like a heat wave moving throughout the room. Another young couple sat holding hands, talking softly and watching televisio and often wiping away tears. Then finally, I noticed an elderly man sitting along and staring out the window. His shoulders were down and his eyes were filled with deep sadness. He appeared utterly lost and alone. You see a lot in a surgical waiting room and often they are so powerful that they stay in your memories for decades as these have for me.

Over the next week our family members were listed in critical condition and were being cared for in the Surgical ICU. I slowly introduced myself to them and carried on conversations and welcomed them each morning when we returned for our daily vigils. We were allowed ten minutes of visitation every four hours so the majority of our day was spent in a vigil, getting a bite to eat from the cafeteria or taking advantage of other services offered to us. The elderly gentleman was Mr. T. I do not want to mention his name so I refer to him as Mr. T. His wife had experienced numerous mild heart attacks and they were doing an open heart procedure to replace a valve and do other things which would hopefully prolong her life. I became friends with the mother of the group who had joined hourly for prayers and learned her son had a congenital defect that needed repair. It was effecting his level of activity and his ability to breathe. The three of us were offered a group therapy session to offer ways to alleviate the stress from spending 12 hour days at the hospital and seeing our family member so weak and in critical condition. We were incouraged to place our minds in another place. We were taught to visualize a place of peace that brings us comfort and a sense of well being. I found the sessions to be helpful and a distraction break I looked forward to each day. I was amazed that in the midst of the strong medicinal smell of a hospital, the screaming unpredictable sirens, the intermittent gut wrenching calls for code blue and the sad, worried expressions on so many faces, we could actually remove our consciousness to a place of calm, peaceful, solitude.

I remembered phrases I had heard as a child like, "Why don't you put your mind to good use?" or "Put your mind in gear before your mouth." or "You can get that done if you just put your mind to doing it!" All of these phrases and a few dozen more tell us that man acknowledges the ability to consciously reframe our thinking and guide it to think other thoughts. I find that simply amazing that we have that capability. But we do!

We are admonished and encouraged to PUT ON THE MIND OF CHRIST . 1 Cor 2:13-16 NKJV. We have control of our own thoughts and the thoughts we allow in our minds. The craze of WWJD can be extended to WWJT. What would Jesus think? Hopefully as we mature we involve planning and a thinking process prior to our actions during the day. Living the life of a mature Christian is not a Sunday morning block of time that we reserve for Him and then go merrily along the rest of the week living "our" lives. We are encouraged to enter every room, every activity and event, every meeting with others, every doctors appointment (you get the idea) with our mind in Christ. Our image of Christ as our precious Savior who suffered and died and was resurrected and ascended into Heaven is the way we most readily see Him. We are taught to acknowledge His life that way when we repeated the Apostles' Creed. His disciples encourage us to see Him, also, as someone who once lived as a man on earth, who faced the needs, the sorrows, the emotional challenges of anger and mental exhaustion. Christ is our friend. He is our conduit to speaking in prayer to His Heavenly Father.

Yesterday, I was facing a challenge I literally dreaded. I admit it. I do not like my neurologist. I assume because he has practiced for twenty years that he is knowledgeable in his field of study. He has little personality. He is about as friendly as Oscar the Grouch. I have been having some chronic symptoms and do not know which ones are connected to what else. I feared with my recent "bolt of light" that surged through my head last week leaving me with a blinding headache, it was not minor. I feared he would hear my description and make a snap judgment demanding my driver's license. I listened as he was talking to his nurse outside my door and I whispered a prayer of peace and guidance for his decisions. I imagined Christ behind my chair lifting his arms and showering me with peace and comfort and calm. The doctor sat down and asked, "how are you?" I responded, "I feel well but I do have a few symptoms and would appreciate your professional help in sorting them out for me?" "Go ahead", he said. And so the meeting went. What amazed me was how the negative thoughts I had left me with the moment of prayer and visualizing Christ in the room with us. What amazed me that the usually bristly, curt physician was soft spoken and compassionate. Instead of his normal behavior of reacting and jumping up with a quick decision, he took his time, asked questions and listened intently. He made the decision to focus on my continued problems with vertigo and to allow that one "glitch in the brain" and to watch for any further activity. He confirmed my concerns about my meds causing some of the "fuzzy headiness" and we had a plan.

Putting our mind in Christ is not a phrase that only applied to the small church members in Corinth. It is a wonderful plan for how to face each moment of everyday in our life. It should be part of our "survivor" plan for making the most of each day. I want to continue to encourage you to keep Christ close. Rely on him in those "have mercy" moments to step in close by you and to shower you with blessings that you need to get through with the best results. I admit it is going to be a challenge to bring Christ into my mind on my next trip to Walmart but it is well worth the practice, I have decided, since Christmas crowds and traffic are around the corner. Don't you agree?

Because God gave us free will and free thought, we are able to go through life never thinking of Christ, at all. We can wake up and face a day of challenges and never invoke Christ to walk with us. That is our choice. We are also capable of opening our mind to evil thoughts, thoughts of negativity and ill will toward others. We are capable of saying phrases that judge others and demean their existence. God lets us do that because we control our own thoughts and make our own choices. But God has ultimately given us the gift of life. He has blessed us with gifts to help continue His mission to reach others' lives in a positive way. He is pleased when our thoughts are in Him and He in turn, abides in us.

There is no major effort needed to begin the process. We do not have to plan what we are wearing to church to be in communication with God. Church is an extension of our faith that involves fellowship with others who love God. Walking in Christ, living in Christ is right here for the thinking. We are encouraged to actually "Put on the mind of Christ". It is one more gift we have been given in this amazing life of ours. All it takes is our conscious decision to face life with Christ in our hearts and MINDS.

Dear Heavenly Father,
We are blessed with your endless gifts of love. As your children, we are still free to think our own thoughts and make our own decisions. Remind us you are here with us and that we are in conversation with you, You are in us and with us. What a blessing it is to realize that you are not a distant God in our universe but One who is pleased with us when we open our minds to welcome you.
In Jesus' Name,

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