Category Archives: Thinking

Perception

Now you see it, now you don't: what optical illusions tell us about our  brains

Years ago, someone had the wrong perception about me. They discovered that I was a long-time Beatles fan, which was an appalling flaw, apparently, since I was a leader in the church. Another time, someone was shocked to see me laughing and dancing around with my small grandchildren at a social event. They had the perception that Christians weren’t supposed to have fun. More recently, there have been some who frown upon my current lack of church affiliation, as if that were an indication of declining spiritual commitment. All these perceptions were and are based on people’s personal belief systems and not on actual conversations with me. In most cases, they didn’t really know me at all.

Perception: The act of perceiving or of receiving impressions by the senses; or that act or process of the mind which makes known an external object (Webster’s Dictionary 1828).

We all have notions and ideas – perceptions – that came along for the ride as we grew up. These were formed as a result of what we saw around us, what we were told by our parents, teachers, friends, or the media. While many of our perceptions may have been based on fact and are therefore correct, a whole lot of them were not. We act on those perceptions and they become what we believe. Then we become what we believe.

Think about God the Father and what you believe about Him. Is He going to reject you unless you come to Him in a certain way or believe the right things about Him? Will He love you less if you don’t measure up to the standards of the world, the church, your family, or most of all, His expectations of you? Does that specific sin cancel your ticket to heaven?

You probably answered no to those questions because, of course, everyone knows that God doesn’t operate that way, right? But come on, who hasn’t heard the “God is going to be so disappointed in you” phrase, whether it be a voice in your head or from someone else.

Perceptions.

And so, another question arises. Do you believe and know the Father God? Or do you perceive and so believe and trust something else?

Really knowing God for myself – not someone else’s perception of Him – is an ongoing game-changer. It’s an amazing process. I spent most of my life listening to other people tell me about God, the bible and what His will was for me, and I just accepted it all until it became my perception too. It was gaining knowledge about Him rather than an experience of knowing Him. There’s such a difference. When I allowed myself to respond to the nudging of the Holy Spirit and put aside all those notions and ideas (perceptions) of who I thought He was so I could know and experience Him for who He really is, I also began to know myself in Christ.

Discovering who you really are – who God created you to be in Him – will lead you out of old ways of thinking which keep you convinced that you aren’t who you are. These are Satan’s weapons. Deception. Lies. Surrendering old thought patterns (perceptions) can be scary to your mind, and the devil knows it. Who do you think put the fear there in the first place? When you introduce something new, the neurons in your brain throw up warning flags. It takes work to change how you think. It’s always easier to give up and not make the effort. But there is no victory in that.

For me, there was, and still is opposition. Opposition from others who cling tightly to their perceptions and tell me I’m heading down a dangerous path. Opposition from within – the fight to dredge up my own perceptions and look at them through God’s microscope. Change is hard. Questioning why I believe what I believe is hard, and it’s a process that doesn’t always have simple answers.

But I trust my Father, so I think I’m in pretty good hands. I know He is real. I know He hears me. I know He speaks to me. I know He is in me and around me all the time. I know He loves me and cares about what I think and feel and do.

He is good.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8 (NKJV)

Another translation puts it this way:

Drink deeply of the pleasures of this God. Experience for yourself the joyous mercies he gives to all who turn to hide themselves in him. Psalm 34:8 (TPT)

If you’re looking for me, I’m hiding in Him.

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This is Now

The Time is NOW wall clock | Zazzle.com | Diy clock wall, Cool clocks, Wall  clock

It’s that time when we are reminded to reflect on the past year and set goals for the next. This is all with the hope that the new year will be everything that 2020 was not, as if that last tick of the clock at midnight will reset our lives.

Sorry to disappoint, but it doesn’t work that way.

This is now. It’s what you have.

I’ve concluded that I spend far too much time thinking about what happened in my past and, on the flip side, wasted so many precious minutes fretting about what could happen in my future. Really, how dumb is that? I don’t want to use my brain power on things I can’t do anything about.

The past is done. Over. Finished. You can’t change it. Remember the good stuff and learn from your mistakes. Move on.

The future is yet to come. Set your course to accomplish the things you need to in order to achieve whatever prize it is you’re reaching for and do it.

My point is: THIS. IS. NOW.

Are you missing the blessing, the love, the wonder, the joy of today because you’re mired in the past or caught up in what could happen in the future? Our Father, in all His infinite wisdom, gave us NOW.

Stop what you’re doing. Look around. Smile. Send a text message to someone you haven’t talked to for a while. Pick up the phone and call a friend or a family member. Write something positive in your journal. Thank God for your life, your health, your home – for His care.

No excuses.

Let this be your focus:

Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life. Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God! Ephesians 3:17-19 (TPT)

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De-Conform

different

To all the wordaholics reading this, I am well aware that de-conform is not a word. I made it up for this blog post. Wordaholic, for that matter, isn’t a real word either. Just let your OCD tendencies slip a little for the sake of literary license, okay?

I read Romans 12:1-2 in The Message Bible, and this is what it says:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I know, I know. I’ve caused you more grief by using a paraphrase instead of an actual bible translation. Live with it. But don’t miss my point.

Which is to de-conform.

Remember my last post (click here) about the crowd-following bridge-jumpers? The whole de-conforming thing fits right in. Read the two verses above again and get a small glimpse of what the Apostle Paul is saying here. In a nutshell, THINK! Use your brain.

In a world gone berserk – come on, let’s call it what it is – going against the culture is unpopular, and can even get you in trouble if your attention isn’t fixed on God. But when you ask Him, hear Him and include Him in your life, He’s going to give you some pretty specific instructions. He will change you. He will bring out the best in you.

I had the opportunity to pray with and speak into the life of a young woman today. The details of the situation are hers to share, not mine, but the amazing and completely God thing about it all was that because I put aside my own comfort zone in order to do what the Holy Spirit directed me to do, this young woman got something she would have otherwise missed. It had nothing to do with me, except that I was obedient. It had everything to do with her receiving a gift that the Lord wanted to give her.

As it says in the above passage, readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. I clearly recognized God’s direction in that moment (believe me, I don’t always), and I acted on it immediately. As a result, a precious woman was blessed. How awesome is our God!

So, what does de-conform mean? (Again, my own word, so my own sort of definition.) Rather than chugging along with the crowd, I am striving to hear the voice of my Father so that when He tells me to move in a different direction, I won’t even hesitate. It’s a process. But He is so patiently teaching me, waiting for me to catch up, nudging me along, and scooping me out of the ditches when I stumble. Oh, He is good!

I don’t want to be a photocopy of everyone else. I want to be what God wants me to be – a reflection of His Son, Jesus Christ. I want to be obedient and faithful and true to what He has for me to do. To say. To be. Holy and acceptable to Him.

De-conform.

It’s a real thing.

 

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No Fail

Here’s the thing: there is no such thing as failure.

What? Impossible, you say.

I can see the eyebrows raised and I can hear the gears grinding in your brain.

Well, just think about it for a minute. Whenever you try to do something and fail, you simply end up doing something else instead. You can’t fail. You can only produce results. Those results might not be what you wanted or expected, but they are still results. Maybe you learned what didn’t work. Or you figured something out that you didn’t even know you needed to know. Or you managed to discover something that is even better than what you were trying to do in the first place.

Any way you look at it, there is no failure.

The key in all of this is to TRY. Make an attempt. Take a risk. Step out in faith.

Your imagination is a powerful tool. It can dream wild and fantastic things to excite and motivate you into areas where you never thought you’d see yourself. And it can tear you down with fears so great that you never even try. It’s your imagination. Your choice.

Here’s the other thing: there is no fail with God. Ever.

He’s the One who created you – the One who gave you the ability to dream and to imagine. He wants you to use that ability to be His hands and feet in the world. To think up ways to do all the wonderful things He always knew you could. To be the person He destined you to be.

So what are you waiting for?

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Filed under Being Creative, Blogging, God, Imagination, Thinking, Writing

The Introverted Extrovert

I frequently find myself in the middle of the introvert vs. extrovert debate. For some odd reason, it seems to be of the utmost importance for people to be able to slot themselves into one or the other of these labels. Personally, I don’t care. I’m an extrovert and that’s that. End of discussion.

Or is it?

I read an article from the Huffington Post that pinpoints 23 signs that you’re secretly an introvert. Then I got thinking. Perhaps I’m not the extrovert I thought I was. Maybe I am an introvert in disguise. Check this out:

Not sure if you’re an innie or an outie? See if any of these 23 telltale signs of introversion apply to you.

1. You find small talk incredibly cumbersome.

I have to give myself a point for this one because I despise small talk. I put up with it for so many years in the corporate world and there is nothing more annoying, boring, and phony than small talk. Cut the fluff and get to the point.

2. You go to parties – but not to meet people.

The older I get, the less I enjoy social gatherings for the purpose of meeting people. I go when I have to, but I would much rather spend time one on one with a good friend or family member.

3. You often feel alone in a crowd.

Boy, oh boy, this is so true for me – feeling like an outsider in the middle of social gatherings or group activities, even with people I know.

4. Networking makes you feel like a phony.

Yup, absolutely.

5. You’ve been called “too intense.”

I’ve had people tell me that to my face on more than one occasion. Since I find small talk cumbersome (#1 above), I prefer to get to the heart of the matter very quickly.

6. You’re easily distracted.

I do have the classic extrovert tendency to get bored easily when I don’t have enough to do, but I also have the opposite problem of becoming easily distracted and overwhelmed in environments with an excess of stimulation. And then I can’t sleep at night.

7. Downtime doesn’t feel unproductive to you.

I definitely need my time alone. Give me a good book and a diet Coke and I’m good for the day.

8. Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoy speaking to large groups of people, and I’ve done lots of it over the course of the past 30 years. But the post-talk mingling? Nope, not my thing at all.

9. When you get on the subway, you sit at the end of the bench – not in the middle.

That would be me.

10. You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long.

Also me. I just zone out.

11. You’re in a relationship with an extrovert.

Yes, very true. My husband loves to be with people. Loves small talk.

12. You’d rather be an expert at one thing than try to do everything.

Well, no, I’d have to say this is not true for me. I love to try almost everything.

13. You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation.

Absolutely true.

14. You screen all your calls – even from friends.

I admit it. I do this quite often.

15. You notice details that others don’t.

I definitely do notice details. And I remember them.

16. You have a constantly running inner monologue.

Yes and no. I don’t really know what that means.

17. You have low blood pressure.

No.

18. You’ve been called an “old soul” – since your 20s.

No for this one, too.

19. You don’t feel “high” from your surroundings

I’ve changed, I think. I used to like nothing better than huge parties and gatherings. They don’t interest me anymore.

20. You look at the big picture.

I am definitely a big picture person.

21. You’ve been told to “come out of your shell.”

No, never.

22. You’re a writer.

I’ve always been able to communicate better in writing.

23. You alternate between phases of work and solitude, and periods of social activity.

Yes, that would be me.

Am I an introvert because I scored 18 out of 23 on this little quiz? No, I don’t think so. And most people who know me well would probably agree. But I’ve recognized that I do have significant introvert-ish tendencies, and I am satisfied with being an introverted extrovert.

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Messed Up Thinking

I used to have messed up thinking. Yes, folks, it’s true.

I used to think it mattered what other people thought about the way I looked or what I did or who I talked to. It doesn’t.

I used to think I had to reach some high level of corporate performance in order to be successful. I didn’t.

I used to think I’d have to be the person I thought others wanted me to be before they would accept me. Not true.

I used to think I was required to meet everyone’s expectations, even if I didn’t know what they were. How dumb.

I used to think I had failed miserably as a human being because I couldn’t do all of the above. A lie.

The thing is, there are countless messed up thinkers out there who are deceived, because this is the way the world measures success, acceptance, love. And the results are failed relationships. Depression. Self-esteem issues. Suicides. Loneliness. Fear. I could go on.

The bottom line is that who and what you are matters to God. You are precious to Him and He loves you – His own creation. He is the only one who will accept and love you unconditionally, regardless of what you’ve done or where you’ve been. He can straighten out your messed up thinking. He can put you on the straight path to real success.

Jesus said in John 10:10: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (NKJV)

Stop listening to the enemy’s lies. Allow Jesus to give you life – and more abundantly!

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Thinking Outside the Box

Thinking outside the box. We’ve all heard the phrase many times. This usually means to think in broad terms, not constrained by the typical answers.

Thinking outside the box is supposed to result in new and creative ways of solving problems.

I’ve been pondering for a while, having once been an overly exuberant advocate of this methodology. If you can even call it a methodology. I stood in countless boardrooms over the years to deliver this “new-fangled” concept to hundreds of people who actually paid to learn how to think outside the box. It’s so hokey. And to think I bought into it, hook, line and sinker.

The key to creativity isn’t thinking outside the box.

It’s getting rid of the box altogether.

Because if you hang onto the box, even from the outside, you are still dragging all your garbage with you. And everything will be filtered through that box. Your old ways of thinking. Your nasty habits. The parts of you that need to be pruned off and discarded once and for all.

Leave the box.

This puts you in a vulnerable position, no doubt about it. There’s nothing to hide behind. Nowhere to climb in and pull the flaps closed. You’re exposed. Open to the elements.

And you’re in exactly the right place for God to do something with you.

I’ve been asking the Lord to show me new ways to do things – new concepts to study and develop, new ideas on how to do what He wants me to do. Much of what He’s pouring into my brain will require great leaps of faith. He’s not interested in my little cardboard box. He’s kicked aside and I can’t even reach it anymore.

So, I am standing out there. Nothing to lean on but the Father. He’s got some pretty awesome things up His sleeve for me, for my family, and for the people in my circle of influence. I’m a little nervous and a lot excited.

Being without the box is true liberty. There is no flimsy false barrier between me and Jesus. The ultimate Creator is working in me and believe me, there is no greater Source of creativity.

Life is so fun!

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)

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Memories

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with a number of long-time friends, remote family members and acquaintances from way back. It’s been so much fun catching up! But something became very evident during the many conversations that took place.

Not everyone remembers like I do.

It was even kind of embarrassing in some cases; bringing up something funny from the past and laughing my guts out only to see that the other person had no idea what I was talking about.

Events that are burned into my memory from thirty, forty, and even fifty years ago have been forgotten by the people who were there with me. How is it that I can see these things happening like it was yesterday, and others have no recollection at all? I don’t get it. Or maybe I do.

Honestly, it’s not that I was born with an amazing memory – I simply purposed from a very early age to remember. It was a conscious effort, even as a young child. I don’t know why I deemed it so important, because I certainly wouldn’t have understood the implications of that decision. I just knew I needed to do it.

I recall telling myself, “Remember this day, remember this conversation, remember how you felt when it happened.”

I do remember. And I still say it to my kids and grandchildren. Because I want them to remember, too.

Now if only I could remember where I put my car keys . . .

 

 

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The Trail Mix

Trail Mix

I like to have something to munch on when I write, so I got ambitious and made my own trail mix. I thought it would be cheaper than buying the ready-made stuff at Trader Joe’s, but it isn’t, so I might as well save myself the effort from now on. Lesson learned.

But this bag of trail mix got me thinking. It’s kind of like the church. Really. Take a look at the individual ingredients.

Peanuts: the average, regular ones who always come out, get involved in everything, work hard, and mind their own business.

Cashews: a little bit uppity, selective in where they appear, sometimes hard to locate.

Chocolate chips: the life of the party, you always know when they’re around, but they can be prone to meltdowns when things get hot.

Sunflower seeds: usually good for you, but can be so irritating when they’re stuck in the wrong place.

Raisins: so sweet and encouraging – they build you up.

Almonds: they like to be toasted and coaxed along, made to feel like they’re really wanted.

White chocolate chips: these are the ones who say one thing and do something else – they act like chocolate, but they’re not.

Craisins: they sometimes pretend to be raisins, but their sour nature comes through eventually.

Peanut butter chips: the comfortable ones who sincerely just want to be your friend.

When you put all of these ingredients into a bag and shake them up, the result is a very tasty treat. The flavors and textures compliment each other.

Just like the church.

We’re individuals. We all have different characteristics and talents and gifts. But when we come together as one church body, the power of God through Jesus Christ shakes us together and creates a family that can do mighty things for His kingdom.

Delicious!

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Do Things

The difference between people who lead full lives and people who live empty lives is pretty simple. Look around you. Look at your friends, your family, your acquaintances, your co-workers. Who are the ones who seem to be the happiest? The most content?People who act and do things are busy and happy and fulfilled. People who don’t are not.

I believe it was Albert Einstein who thought people should not be too conscious of why and how they want to accomplish something. They should just do it.

I tend to be that kind of person.

Think about this story: An elementary school teacher believed that our brains get turned on by action. The teacher asked her students to make up a story each day and recite it before the class. There was a painfully shy boy in the class who insisted on waiting until he was inspired to make up the perfect story. After many refusals the exasperated teacher finally asked him to stand in front of the classroom’s piano and make up a story about a dog. In a trembling voice, the boy told a story about a dog who jumped on a piano keyboard and stepped on the keys up and down making music and learned how to play the piano. The class loved his story.

Each time he was asked, he would tell the same story using different animals over and over: the cat who learned to play the piano; the rabbit; the mouse; the squirrel; the pony and so on. One day there was a subtle change. The boy told the story about the dog who taught her puppy how to play. Then it was back to same old routine: the cat who taught her kitten how to play the piano; the bird who taught her hatchling, etc.

Finally, at the end of the year, the teacher announced a story-telling contest. Everyone would tell a story and the class would vote. When it was the boy’s  turn, everyone expected one of the same old animal variations of his story. Instead, he told a story of how a grand piano taught a baby piano how to play. The children clapped and cheered. Unanimously, they voted his story the best of the year.

The bottom line is this: When you go through the motions of being creative you are energizing your brain. The more times you act, the more active your brain becomes and the more creative you become.

What a person thinks or believes is of little consequence until they act.

Do things.

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