What If You Thought?

In the movie, Casablanca, Vichy France’s prefect of police (Captain Renault) tells his men to “round up the usual suspects” when a Nazi officer is shot. That famous line is something I tell myself:

“Karen, whenever your thoughts go wild, round up the usual suspects.”

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For a long time, I thought my usual suspects were fear and worry because those negative emotions robbed my joy, woke me up at night, and prevented me from stepping out of my comfort zone. Then I realized my thoughts were the culprit, instigating all kinds of wild imaginings especially over my kids’ safety.

What if my toddler chokes on a hotdog? What if a stranger steals my kid? What if my teenage child gets injured in a car accident? What if my husband and I die, who’ll raise our kids?

My children grew up, but the wild imaginings continued. I felt more vulnerable with age, and realized how little control (if any) I had over the well being of others. I’d also witnessed enough tragedy in the news and among friends to justify my what ifs.

I told myself worry and fear couldn’t prevent bad things from happening. I told myself worry and fear were a waste of mental energy if these trial weren’t going to happen. I told myself fear is not from the Lord. But all that self talk didn’t help because I’d failed to recognize the source of my worry and fear.

Finally, someone listened to my wild imaginings and said, “You need to capture your thoughts so you’ll experience God’s peace.”

Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?

I understood the impact thoughts have on our moods, words, and actions. I’d often told my children, “Think happy thoughts.” I’d quote Philippians 4:8. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

So what was I thinking?

If I was going to capture my thoughts, I had to recognize my malicious thoughts so I could round them up at the first sign of goosebumps or dread. When a fearful moment arrived, I envisioned minuscule soldiers stationed in my mind—arresting that terrifying thought before it got out of hand. No visitation allowed. I refused to let my mind entertain that thought.

 

police-306317_1280But the nagging thoughts hollered:
What if your negative thoughts are valid?
What if your worst nightmares come true?

That’s when I mustered my second defense. It wasn’t enough to capture my thoughts, I had to renew my mind by reading God’s Word. Then, I challenged myself. “You like to dwell on what ifs. Think about this:

What if you controlled your thoughts instead of allowing your thoughts to control you?
What if you believed God is able to do more than you can imagine instead of focusing on your wild imaginings?
What if you believed God’s promises to provide, comfort, and guide you instead of wondering how you’ll cope?
What if you trusted God’s sovereignty instead of worrying about the future?
What if you believed God’s grace is sufficient even in your worst nightmare?
What if you believed that nothing—no sin or failure—can separate you from God’s love?
What if you believed to be absent from the flesh is to be present with the Lord?
What if you gave thanks in everything for this is God’s will for you?

Would these thoughts, these mind-blowing truths, alleviate your worries and fears? Would they free you to live? If so, round up the usual suspects–even in this moment!

 

Images: Pixabay.com

 

 

No If, And, or But

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“I love you, but…”

Has anyone said that to you?

For me, instead of owning the love, I camp on the words that follow that statement because it seems the person’s love (or approval) is contingent on something I do or don’t do.

When I raised kids, I probably said the same thing. “I love you, but . . . you need to clean your room, do your homework, behave.”

I assumed God spoke that way to me. “I love you, but . . .”

But, what? What do I need to do? As a performance-driven, people pleaser, I turned myself inside out to find the answer.

Do I need to earn my salvation?

No, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).

Do I need to earn God’s love?

No, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Maybe I need to be a better Christian so I don’t lose God’s love.

And the Loving God who calls me “Beloved” assures me, “Nothing can separate you from my love” (Romans 8:35-39).

You see, I spent years learning God’s Word, but I had to believe God.

Imagine my relief and the mind-blowing joy to know that I know—God loves. There is no if, and, or but!

Hold onto this truth no matter what your feelings or circumstances suggest otherwise. Even in this…coming new year!

Do You Touch and Go?

I hadn’t seen the woman’s blog post in months. I clicked on her gravatar. Searched for her website. And discovered it had been deactivated. Did she get tired of blogging or did something happen?

Weeks later, she liked a post. I searched again and found her email address. “Miss your blogs,” I wrote. “Hope you’re well.”

The woman immediately responded, and we had a heart-to-heart talk via email. There was no need to break the ice. We’d been reading each other’s blogs…which had become windows into our lives and souls…for several years.

Social media doesn’t have to be a one-way street—people stalking one another.  Hitting like…or not.

It can be the means to celebrate people’s victories. Mourn their losses with them. Pray for them.

Not everyone is convinced. I have a friend who chooses one-on-one quality time rather than “touch and go relationships.” I understand. I love looking in someone’s eyes rather than a computer screen. Holding hands to pray.

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However, despite the cons, social media has enlarged my heart to an ever-growing circle of friends. I’ve …

Found long lost friends.
Corresponded more often than an annual Christmas card.
Developed new friendships online that I’ve met through mutual friends.
Kept in touch with students’ lives.
Seen the world through the eyes of people from other countries.
Been inspired by folks across the globe who also love Jesus.

Regardless of age, gender, or culture, they’re just like me. Learning how to navigate this maze called life.

Some days, their posts provide the only good news that I hear.

For we’re inundated with round the clock news which points out everything wrong with this world. Highlights evil. Warns us of disease and terror.

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What if we used social media to encourage one another instead of tongue lashing the world?

What if we used it as a means to understand one another and reach out instead of circling our wagons to protect our own interests?

I’m not suggesting rose-colored posts that pretend life is perfect. We need to be real. We want to know we’re not alone in the things we suffer or strive towards.

But thank God for the multitude of individual lights flickering in the digital world who write about….

Acts of kindness from strangers.
Folks making a positive difference.
Personal stories of redemption, healing, and grace.

The woman, who took a hiatus from blogging, used her words to encourage others and sing God’s praises. When her online presence was gone…I noticed.

Because even in the cyber world, people make a difference.

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24).

Photograph: jennywredephotography.com