The Fight to Fill Your Head!

A couple of days ago, I finally decided to pull the plug; I deleted Snap chat and Twitter from my phone. (SHOCKING.) I still have Facebook and Instagram. My goal is, in one year, to have deleted all other apps but Facebook. (It just is so useful to communicate with people.) I still allow myself access to Twitter on my laptop and I’m assuming that alone will cut my usage of it by 75%. Why did I do this? I came to the conclusion a while ago that not only was I spending WAY too much time on my phone, I spend MORE time on it than ever before! (My addiction is growing.)

As the months passed, I continued telling myself my phone usage wasn’t that big of a deal. I mean, it’s MY down time. I think it’s fun, relaxing, and refreshing to spend mindless time on my phone. Why not get some down time for my brain? It went on like this for a while until one day I “woke up” from an HOUR session thinking, “Where did the time go? What did I just look at?” I realized I had opened one app, closed it, opened a different one, gone back to the previous one, opened another different one, etc. That was the reality of that hour: over and over again, checking for anything new, anything stimulating, anything to entertain me. And I wasted a whole hour. What did I do? Nothing. I filled my mind with literally nothing.

That’s sad. I am sad that I wasted time. Time that could have been spent with someone, thinking about someone, listening to a teaching, reading a book, studying the Word, actually hanging out with a person… Any number of more productive options! Instead, that hour was spent on social media/email/Pinterest/games/etc. – being mindlessly entertained.

It’s remarkable to see how far technology has gone to draw us in. I look at younger generations and I tremble: do they even know what they’re up against? Do I even understand the extent of our culture’s ability to suck mind power away from people? I can’t begin to imagine the extent, but when I try, and step back to analyze the situation, I am struck by fear. Not only is it social media, but articles, images, songs, TV shows, video games – there are so many things fighting to fill our heads.

The question is – what will we let win the battleground of the mind?

Whatever we choose to fill our heads will rule our life. Whether that is social media, video games, Netflix, online shopping – where we put our focus becomes the most important thing in our lives. Isn’t that scary? If I fill my head with useless shit I will miss opportunities, I will become numb to certain ways of thinking, my critical thinking skills will dull. I have no responses to certain people/situations, I become lazy, more selfish (than usual), heartless, obsessed with material things, wanting immediate pleasure. I’m speaking from experience, here! That is what happens to me when I don’t take the time to train my mind or when I let it run unleashed.

Take a look at these verses. They illustrate the effect our thinking has on our lives: 

  • Romans 12 – “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
  • Matthew 6 – “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
  • 2 Corinthians 10 – “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Are we going to let these things rule and waste our lives? There’s a wonderful book published in the 70s titled “The Christian Use of Emotional Power” wherein the author describes how our thoughts control our feelings which control our actions. This book convinced me that the infantile motto “I can’t control how I feel” is false. You can. Because you CAN control your thoughts. (**For the most part.) I know, every emotional teen girl would punch me for saying that, but it is possible! This truth set me FREE. Of course, it was a struggle and it continues to be a battle, but controlling your thoughts can change your life (see Romans 12 again.)

To my fellow iGen and Millenials, I hope you can also decide to win the fight that is happening to fill your head. You can take control not only in your emotions, but also in what you DO and what you let your mind SEE – you are the gatekeeper for what enters your head and you can police what is going on in there. It is your greatest weapon. Let us not be sucked away, sucked in, then thrown away by the trash we encounter. Rather, let us fill it with truth, with challenges, with gratitude.

Slowly, but surely, you will experience an enormous weight lifted from your mind, the freshness of clear-thinking, and the ability to become more like Christ.

In my experience, this is what you will encounter:

  1. It’s hard.  It is not easy. Easy is: I want to think/feel/do whatever I want! But is easy what is best for you? Is doing whatever comes naturally the best for you? (No – see Jeremiah 17:9.) But God himself says that change in character takes trials/problems – AKA things that are hard.
  2. It takes self-control.* This is an area I fail at a lot. In my initial campaign to regain the battlefield of my mind, I took some extreme measures – some of which I still use to this day. I took breaks from the internet. Crazy. But necessary to take action like that! Accountability helps. My friends have even changed my social media passwords and held onto them for me for a month at a time so that I physically could not log myself in. Drastic times call for drastic measures. How does any good change of character come? Galatians 5 says, “the fruit of the spirit is LOVE, joy , peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” – Self control? Hmm. Interesting. Doesn’t seem to fit there, yet it’s there. Something to think about… But also involves the next point:
  3. It takes prayer. Why not ask God for help gaining control of our mind? Staying away from the trash we like to fill it with will take breaking our flesh. I believe nothing good happens without God, so to change in this area, we need God’s help!
  4. It takes vulnerability. In order to “set your mind on the things above” instead of what’s on the earth (Colossians 3) means we have to regain control of our minds, and subject ourselves to God’s truth. Wait, who am I to differentiate crazy thoughts from the truth? Sometimes it’s really hard when you’re so close to the situation to tell between strong emotion and truth. That’s where PEOPLE come in! Hey, we have friends for a reason! They are there to sift through your thoughts and emotions WITH YOU. It’s loving for them to do so for you and it’s also loving for you to go to them with your sin. Getting it all out in the open creates an atmosphere of acceptance and vulnerability that is freeing and full of love – what God wants for us in the Body of Christ!
  5. It will transform your life. I wish I could replay some of my crazy teen years for some of my new friends… would they even believe that girl was me? Of course, I am still far from perfect, but when I think about all the amazing things God has done to me I cannot help but shout to him for joy. Thank you, Lord, for setting me free from the slavery of my mind! Thank you for giving me clarity in my thoughts! Thank you for continuing to confront me with this issue that will always be a struggle! Thank you for your truth which is so much greater than anything else I can choose to fill my mind with.

Lastly, the fear I have most for us young, easily distracted, entertainment addicted people is that we’ll have calloused minds unable to be “shrewd as serpents”. With all of the issues piling up around us, on us, and on those we love – we can’t afford to have our minds taken out of the fight…

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

 

*If you find yourself struggling with phone addiction (yes, I said addiction, ugh) check out these tips. I’ve not only deleted some apps, but turned off notifications and set my phone to gray scale. I think these restrictions are useful and would fall under the self-control point of this journey. 

**I acknowledge that there are certain thoughts and feelings we cannot control. These may occur from circumstances outside of us (such as abuse or even spiritual attack.) But for the purpose of this article: I’m talking about selfish things we let our minds think, which many of us think are uncontrolled, but are actually able to be tamed.

*** More food for thought: People are starting to question social mediaYup, this is the worst app for you.

P.s. Thank you Zak, Alex & Megan for editing!

“Old friend(s)”

Sidewalks, beaches, cliffs & more/
Challenging each other to all out war…
Walking to your houses around the block/
Late night hikes, a scare plan to shock…

Growing up and seeing so much change/
In us, in life, in our group – it can be strange…
We’d stay best friends forever, all of us would/
But I think it’s better that we didn’t, even if we could…

I’m so glad you’re still here today,
I can simply reach out with something to say
& you’d be there for me, like you were for years,
Always ready to laugh or with open ears.

Sometimes, I get sad that we’re so close yet
So far. But I get to watch & smile. Cause we met
& my life was saved because of you –
My childhood, teenage, lifelong crew.

And all the breaking, fighting, laughing, changing we’ve been through –
I can’t wait to look back, recount it, to hold, all of you…
In heaven (of course) when we’re done doing what we’re bred for,
When we’ve finished our race & when we’ve won.

2017 – woah…

What a year. What – a – year! I look back at 2017 in total shock & awe. WHAT just HAPPENED? First of all – it flew by. My 25th year of life made me feel very old, but very young at the same time. And talk about HILLS and VALLEYS! Oh my… There were SO MANY ups & downs. I can’t believe it! I really, really can’t.

Here are a few highlights (& lowlights?):

  • We went to Israel! – Definitely one of my favorite memories. Fun, emotional, educational – this trip really was one unlike any other. To see where Jesus walked was an honor & a privilege. It really solidified the person of Jesus (as Paul Miller would say.) I learned a lot, too. Being a visual person, it’s crazy to see God’s words alive – literally! Even today, seeing the nation of Israel really helped me understand so much of his word. 
  • We bought a house! Yeah, that’s right. And looking for a house in itself had a lot of lows. It revealed my character… It wasn’t fun. I wasn’t looking forward to it. But then, actually moving into a home with my husband to start a life in a neighborhood where we will raise a family that will, god-willing, be grace soldiers is actually very exciting. And our house is awesome & cozy. I love having people over, I love being able to feel at home & I love having a spot to grow with Zak to lay the foundations for what is to come. 
  • I was depressed for 7 months… Oddly enough, I literally can name the day it started & the day it ended. It was like a cloud hovered over my mind, weights were on my arms, & a rope around my throat. That’s how I felt & functioned for 7 months. Every day I was on the verge of tears, I was utterly hopeless. It wasn’t like any other depression I’d been through in the past. It wasn’t self-inflicted… It was pain. And loss. It was an inability to understand certain situations – losses, failures, setbacks – truly painful, hopeless things that happened in ministry & in my personal life. Basically, I got to the point where I was no longer clinging to Christ, I only had one finger tip on him while I was completely turned away. (All the while I was trying desperately to find a reason to turn back.) 
    • But, in July, I was freed from depression! It’s true – one day, it stopped. I’m still unsure of the exact reasons for when/why/how it began/ended/was, but I know this: I wasn’t believing that God was working in my life. One of the things that freed me from my depression was actually living in full trust that He was there & He was all I need. It sounds so utterly simple – that’s because it is/was. I got to a certain point that I had certain expectations of how God should look, what fruit is, & what it is to grow… When those things weren’t happening & when the opposite started to happen, I lost it. “How could God leave me here? I must mean nothing to him. I must be the stupid, useless bitch I & everyone thought I was all along. Why even try. Life is meaningless.” – Thoughts I had every day. (Yeah, still as dramatic as always.) Anyway, the moment the depression was lifted, the moment I had a joy in my heart that has literally not gone away since July. It’s unreal. It’s like nothing in the world could take me out as long as I know God is with me & I am His. Like – WOAH.
      During this time I had the privilege of studying 1 Samuel in IP. I got to teach one of the craziest stories of David’s life – 1 Samuel 27-30. Everything is falling apart for David (once again, but this time, he really did it in for himself.) Then, this happens: (30:6-8) 

David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the Lord his God. Then he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring me the ephod!” So Abiathar brought it. Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?” And the Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!”

From these verses, even after everything David did, he finally turned to God for STRENGTH & then for GUIDANCE. So, I started doing that. Everyday, I’d pick up the Word & ask God the same two things: 1. Can you please strengthen me w/ your power today? 2. Can you please give my your guidance? (NOT mine, not what I think or how I think it should be… YOURS.) It’s been wonderful.

  • I celebrated my one year anniversary with the most sacrificial, patient, wonderful man I have ever met – my Zak! He’s truly been the more amazing than I have ever imagined. The daily tiffs & miscommunications are interesting, but we’ve become a team. To be known by someone & still loved is truly awesome. I thank God for Zak & for how much more God loves & knows me.
  • I made it through one year of working for IGL! I love IGL. But it’s been a battle for me to give up certain things in a career shift like this. I complain about it all the time when in reality, I have been blessed to work for an organization that is doing such amazing things AND I get to work with some of my best friends!
  • New people came into my life! The first was through our Discovery Group – it’s a Bible study, but rather than being taught what it says, people who are curious can come to the Bible & find the answers themselves. We did this last year, too, Jeri & I. It failed. By the end, we started with 6 & ended with 2 – the two of us. But this year, God has brought us a bunch of ladies who want to know more about him! It’s been SO CRAZY to see what his word does! Literally. We just show up, open the Bible, & the Spirit freaking moves! A couple girls started a relationship with Christ this year through this little hang out time! Wonderful. Also, my longtime friend accepted Christ! She then proceeded to give up her lifestyle of leisure & partying in Florida to move to Ohio, move into a ministry apartment & join our discovery group! It was an amazing miracle I had no part in but have been able to take great joy in. Lastly, I was invited to join the middle-school ministry. I love them – I love seeing how perceptive they are to real life even though they’re so young. I love seeing God speak to them. Even though it’s just beginning, I can’t wait to see what else God does through these girls.
Here are a few takeaways: 
  • I am powerless.
  • I have peace.
  • God is a great best friend.
So, yeah. It’s been a crazy year!  I hate New Years Resolutions, but I do have some goals I want to be talking with God about:
  1. Think of myself less. Love more.
  2. Become less materialistic.
  3. Read more. (Thinking of instead of doing a poem a month, rather publishing book reports on my blog. This would be very anti-Elli, but would be a good way to visualize goals. Idk.)
  4. Have a more grateful heart.
That’s it! Here is to 2018 – “But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.” – Joshua 24:15
Thank you so much, Father!

December

Sadness

It is there.
As I mask it with ribbon & tape,
It lives.
As I use these gifts & song to cope,
It prevails.
As I wish & wonder & hope,
It doesn’t go away.

It’s still there –
The fact that life… sucks.
It hurts. It squashes. It burns.
People pass & they… hurt.

Such a small word for something so…
Mighty. So altering, so meaningful.
Hurt.
Oh, the pain they feel – I feel.
I wish I could take it away!

But it won’t go away.
Maybe it will & then –
It comes back! Something new
To torment them.
And it sucks.

I wish I had the words for them,
For me.
Yet as I see the pain many see,
Sometimes it doesn’t sting.
Sometimes, I can smile.

Sometimes, I can breathe.
I can take in the beauty around me
Without seeing the death.
I can hear the sweet songs
Without the sad notes.
I can be rid of this prevailing reality –

And be consumed in a warm, never-ending embrace –
One shoulder I can cry, whom strokes my head,
As he wipes every tear from my eye,
He says he’ll get me through the pain,
And bring me to the end.
Where joy lives and where he conquers death.

(Those are the words I have… Thankful for the Prince of Peace sent to the world to rid it of all the sadness – someday – and presently, to give us hope & peace while we wait for eternity.)

November

Nothing out there for me

Trying, trying, trying to find

Something, something, to fill my mind.

 

With no answers, there is no end.

With no answers, what can be said?

 

Making up what I can to satisfy

The wants of my open mind.

 

But nothing will fill that gaping hole

That tries and wants and needs full.

 

It’s all just nothing out there,

Where they claim to bear

…nothing.

October

This is what I have to say:

If I could leave the world a word
I know it would go unheard.

But if anyone would care to share
This is the message I would bear:

God came down a person, real
to help, to hear, to start to heal.

He came to show all of the hope
that allows us in this darkness to cope.

I’d say to you: this isn’t a choice,
He’s a real being, a real voice.

I’d tell the ones I love to CEASE:
God is offering a great peace!

That you cannot get on your own
So stop living life as just ONE!

He offers forever with him,
Please: go out on a limb.

Ask him to allow you to understand
I assure you, he will stick out his hand.

He will show you that we are broken
and that is hard to hear once spoken.

But not without hope for he has an offer.
Forgiveness it is and he is the author.

So, please, reach out to the greatest Father,
Who wishes us all be sons & daughters.

September

Helper

I have been viewing losses as fail
And effort like breaking out of jail.

I’ve looked and said: “please, help!
I’m searching & there’s no hope I’ve felt.”

Yet, you’re always guiding, turning
Me and answering my yearning

Telling me: “Daughter, it’s going to be okay!”

Since his will is perfect & good
And his love is more than it should.

And even if I lose every single thing
To him, my heart, I will still cling.

At the gates he’ll yell: “what did I say!”

And every single thing will be okay.

That Hideous Strength

Here’s a little excited update on what I’ve been reading! A fiction book! AHH – it’s been so fun. Here are my passion-filled thoughts:

Those who know me know my love for fantasy – I’d call it extreme fantasy. Like, I would like to be transported into another world without any trouble getting there, smooth ride with no connecting flights. So, naturally, The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) has been an all-time favorite since I can remember. However, during my college years, I started falling in love with C.S. Lewis’ The Space Trilogy. Well, that changed my mind. As beautiful and explosive as LOTR is, it took precedent.

The Space Trilogy set the bar for books from then on. However, I only read Out of the Silent Planet (the first book) and Perelandra (the second book). I tried reading the third in the series, That Hideous Strength, which sounded so captivating, but could not finish. Those who have read it understand that the first chunk is pretty painful for those of us who aren’t scholars! It’s set in a university – with the a bunch of lofty dialog, theories, and college politics to start. You have to wonder – what is Lewis getting at? Dispersed between these (droning and draining) conversations and people, you meet a more interesting character. She is the wife of one of these sociology professors, Mark, and isn’t apart of the college politics. (Although, she is getting her PhD from the college – Bracton if I haven’t mentioned the name yet.) Her name is Jane. She is young and forward for the time, meaning, she is independent and isn’t all about the structure of lady-hood nor marriage. She seems to tip toward feminism and is definitely a logical thinker – she prides herself in this. I believe you are supposed to think at first highly of Mark Studdock – he seems like a smart, legit, but human person. We quickly know of his downfall, though, as he enters an undefined position with an unseemly organization and becomes obsessed with getting to the top of said organization without really caring what the organization is actually about… which isn’t admirable at all.

During the time Mark is checking out this job – and starting it – with this mysterious organization (ironically named N.I.C.E.) his wife discovers that she is mentally ill – or what she thinks is mental illness. She has reoccurring terrible dreams that feel so real. After telling a friend about these dreams, the friend refers her to a sketchy place – not the therapist she thought she was going to meet. This introduces a new side, the other side, in this story. We have the N.I.C.E. and we have the party at St. Anne’s. (I won’t mention their title for it is more fun to figure it out!) Eventually, without spoiling the details, Jane finds herself at St. Anne’s again to discover deeper secrets of the party assembled there all the while Mark slowly becomes deeply acquainted with the secrets underlying the N.I.C.E. or “the Institute”.

This story is a fantasy, yet too real to be so. The other books in this timeline take you to wild worlds I could never begin to imagine. But this one keeps you on earth – both literally and metaphorically. The reason for writing this little piece is this: the things Lewis describes happening in this fantasy war are things that could happen here, today! (Well, not all the time. Much of it is magic and mystery and history all combined, but the ideas behind it are very, very timely.)

Here are some extremely shocking and thought-provoking points Lewis makes in That Hideous Strength: (Mind you, this book was published in 1945…)

  1. In this time period, people are beginning to believe whatever they read if it sounds legitimate. This becomes a tool for the bad guys to use to gain their agenda with the masses to the point where they have so much sway and influence, people listen to what they say without even questioning it… Sounds familiar, eh? The bad side uses this naivety through the media. They write persuasive articles full of untrue facts about certain things that cause riots in the streets – over what? They don’t exactly know! We have some details about what they include, but the enemy is vague in the articles and people are without reason for their rioting… Interesting. Shooting at an enemy that you can’t really put into words…
  2. The prideful view of higher power. Jane finds herself resistant to any ideas of a godly realm. She’s always known that, but even as she becomes face to face with it, she digs her heels in. It isn’t until the Director of the party she becomes affiliated with pushes back on her ideas does she admit WHY this is. The why is this: her pride. He points out that in every area of her life, she is in control and never wrong. He points out how evil this is, with a vision to help make the point. She digs her heals in even further, but it gets her thinking… Is this really who I am? Someone so evil?
  3. The lack of Christians actually sold out to Christ. At one point, an interesting character (too good to name!) appears into the story. The Director of the previous book catches him up on (some) history he has missed. The story is central around Christians – those who are and those who aren’t. Everyone seems to identify those who are by the name, but then if they were raised that way versus actually devoted to it. At one point the interesting character asks the Director, in Elli’s paraphrasing, “Can’t we seek help from the surrounding Christian nations?” And the director replies: “There are none.” The character responds: “None? What about these values, have they spread East? Can’t we find some around the globe?” The Director replies: “You can go as far East to end up back here in the West, and you will find none.” Character: “Are there no dedicated Christians that are not leaders? Just normal people?” “No, the few that are remain in this house.” To that the character replies: “Is this then the end?” The Director agrees: “This Hideous Strength has the earth in its fist to squeeze as it wishes.”
    1. Interestingly accurate, is it not? I believe this is set to be nearing to the end times, or at least a picture of what it will look like. Lewis is saying that it already has begun, that Christians who identify as such aren’t really. They don’t know anything about their faith and are quick to abandon it to what the world says. SO INTERESTING!!

I love tales that hit home themes and ideas that are culturally relevant – as well as themes that deal with spiritual issues and faith. (This is one of the reasons I love LOTR.) This book made me think a lot about how we see these issues here and now.

I’d love to hear from other readers… I’ve been reading threads of analyses from people around the world and throughout time, old and new opinions and it is fascinating. But it’s a wonderful thing to have the best of both worlds – aka: get my fill of fantasy, but also be able to emerge with a greater understanding of reality. That’s why I wrote this little report on what I’ve been reading – to appreciate the just about prophetic analysis Lewis has on humanity and also to show what amazing things we can take out of novels that shed light into humanity.

August

To death!

 

I wonder what it’s like knowing not of death –

Breathing in freely, each being a long, lasting breath.

Not fighting, but staring up, up at the sky!

Enjoying, refreshing, knowing I will never die.

 

Much of my life I’ve thought of death –

I’ve thought about how this could be the last breath.

I’ve looked up and shouted, “take me in, sky!”

Hoping, wishing, waiting, pleading to die.

 

Then, others fear the end as final – death-

They charish every single, little, frail breath.

They shout, “Please! Don’t every take me, sky!”

And wonder why, oh why, do I have to die?

 

Either way, I know – I do not fear death –

Able to be grateful, but not cling to every breath.

We eternal can go fly up, up to the sky!

And know my Father did not create me to die.

July

To Be Found

Who is lost?
Not I! I am found.
So up high, away from the ground
I can’t even see
any near me
I am so found
I can’t hear a sound!

Yet I am alone
with no one, nor home
I have to fight
just to see a light
I think I can go
But I just sink below
I am lost. I need found

But he has come, to gather me up
To give me love, when I can’t get up
To love me (even when no one else does) [bad, elli]
And give me a home no matter what.
Oh, how I long to be found – again, and again, so close to your sound
It picks me up, as I drop down.
Oh Father, don’t ever put me down!

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what is lost.” – Luke 19:10

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, thank you, thank you.