Thinking about thinking

In 2021, one of the things I struggled with the most and posted about the most was about my thinking patterns and the things that consumed my brainpower. All my fears and anxieties were housed in the recesses of my mind and from time to time I would take a trip down ‘what if’ lane. Every time I let my thought wander, I realized my anxiety or fears or anger in the situation in question increased exponentially.

Have you ever thought about what you are thinking about? Thinking about thinking is a process called metacognition. Metacognition is a strategy that allows us to organize and evaluate our thought processes related to learning and problem-solving. The more intentional and iterative the metacognitive process is, the better one gets at it. There are many scriptures that speak to aspects of metacognition and one such helpful and revolutionary verse is found in Philippians 4:8:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Philippians 4:8 NLT

This scripture calls for us to take charge of our minds and rather than let our thoughts run off on their own, be intentional in what we think about. A rather apt illustration comes from Gary Thomas in the the Oct/Nov edition of the Focus on the Family magazine. It says if we want to be physically healthy, we won’t eat everything that looks delicious; we’ll exercise self-control. Likewise, if we want to be healthy relationally, we shouldn’t think about everything that demands our attention. We need to exert the same self-control with our minds that we do with our bodies.

We must not dwell and ruminate on things that are distasteful, dishonorable, frustrating, anger-inducing, shameful, or deserving of censure. Instead we should reject negative thoughts and lean more into the positive ones. Metacognition does not come naturally to anyone. It is an intentional process which involves making an effort to rein our thoughts in- making it a conscious part of our lives to think about what we think about and actively reject the negative thoughts.

In the past few days, I have been practicing this and this is what I have learned…a lot of my emotions both positive and negative first start with a thought-often a perception based on my assessment of the situation and then that thought becomes an emotion that leads to a reaction. Let me illustrate: An acquaintance sent me a message about a new business he had started and in my excitement I asked, “Can I share this information with others?” The response back was, “That is why I shared it with you”. Now lets consider that response: My first thought was “wow! how rude- I am trying to be helpful and I get attitude back?” In that moment, I equated that text with sarcasm and disrespect and then I got angry at the impudence. Then I remembered Philippians 4:8 and decided to put it into practice so instead of reading the text through the eyes of impertinence, I decided to imagine that there was good intention and joy behind the message and with that in mind, I interpreted the text as “Yes, that is why I shared the information with you because I knew you would be kind enough to pass it along”. Two different reactions to the same message because the starting thought processes were very different. And you know the interesting part of this, I would never truly know if the text was sent with sarcasm, excitement, or indifference and frankly that does not matter. What matters is how I reacted and in the moment, I reacted negatively to the text and developed resentment-this is why we must exercise control over what we allow ourselves to think about.

The act of thinking is not a passive process at all, we can influence our thoughts more than we realize and in my next post ,I will explore how we can do this more. In the meanwhile, stay tuned and try practicing Phil 4: 8 and take control of your thought patterns- be intentional about thinking about your thinking!

Yours Truly

https://anchor.fm/intentionally-me/episodes/Thinking-about-thinking-e1cpp2n

Hell0 2022!

Dear readers, we made it to 2022! At the end of every year, my husband and I set aside 3 days to reflect on our year, pray, and then set goals for the new year. 2021’s end-of-year reflections led to some encouragements from the scripture and my commitments which I would like to share with you:

God has started me on the course of this year with a mandate to be intentional about my thinking (Phil 4:8) and to be intentional about being holy and walk a spirit-filled life (Isaiah 4: 2-4; Isaiah 6: 5-7). He does not promise a problem-free 2022 but what He promises is to be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain (Isaiah 4:6). He promises that his grace will be enough and his strength will prevail through the uncertainties. He encourages me to bring my doubts and fears to him and not allow my experiences to shape my beliefs but rather that my beliefs shape the lenses through which I view all my experiences in this year (Isaiah 7:9). And finally and more importantly, He gives the blessing of His presence- He is the God of 2022.

“Do not be afraid, be strong and courageous, do not be dismayed, be careful and keep calm and do not lose heart. For I will be with you wherever you go. I will be your Emmanuel” (Joshua 1:9; Isaiah 7:4)

My anchor scripture for you for this year is from Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging

PSALM 46:1-3 NIV

Now regarding my commitments to you- last year one of my goals was to write and post at least one blog/ week and frankly, I failed woefully. This year I want to take on that goal again but also be intentional about my writing and posting schedule. What you can expect to see is at least one post every week on Mondays. I will also be launching a complementary podcast titled ‘Intentionally Me’ to accompany each post in the next few weeks- this way, this post can come to you in whatever manner you find convenient. Remember you can also subscribe to this site so that every post is delivered to your email on schedule.

I look forward to a fruitful 2022 of sharing my walk with God and together being intentional in living our our faith. Be encouraged! The Lord your God is with you!

Yours Truly

https://anchor.fm/intentionally-me/episodes/Hello-2022-e1d0ct3

Advent Calendar day 24: Christmas Eve 2021

Finally we have come to the last day of the advent season and tomorrow is Christmas day…. How exciting! And be today, I end this series with a verse from an old Christmas Hymn: O Holy Night

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Adolphe Adam

This past year, the media has been rife with stories of discrimination, racism and many other oppressive practices world wide. In my own life, this year was filled with lots of strife at work and so this hymn is a comforting reminder that Jesus’ gospel, his purpose on earth is to bring and restore peace between God and man, man with himself and with others. His promise and what he offers is that in His name all oppression must and will cease and we will all be reconciled one to another and to God.

So on this Christmas eve, my prayer is that every oppression in your life ceases in Jesus’ name and may the peace of God rest in your homes and in your gatherings as you celebrate the birth and return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas from my home to yours.

Yours Truly

Advent Calendar day 21: Fear of the unknown

This year, I found myself in situations where I was afraid- afraid mainly of the outcomes of things that were beyond my control. What will the result of this medical test be? What will the result of this court case be? What will the result of this application for XYZ be? I was fearful that the outcomes would not be be what I wanted and would change everything. Today’s reading gives me a different perspective to situations that are beyond my control:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

What can power, love and self-discipline do for me when I am anxious about something I have no control over? I can declare boldly and with POWER, God’s supremacy over every situation. I can rest in the promise that because of God’s great LOVE for me, everything will work out for my good even if it does not “look” good. And finally, I can exercise SELF-CONTROL and wait for God to do what He does best in His time- He makes all things beautiful in its time. And the beauty of this is that all of this is possible because of God’s spirit at work in us. He has given us a spirit of POWER, LOVE and SELF-DISCIPLINE so that we can triumph on days such as ones that are filled with fear of the unknown.

Yours Truly

Advent Calendar day 22: Season with Salt

Have you ever had a conversation about someone or something and felt worse afterwards? This year, a few of my conversations felt that way. There were lots of situations that I had very strong opinions about and did not hesitate to voice them out but I always seemed to feel less unburdened and more ungodly afterwards. I always felt like I had let myself down because of the flavour of those conversations which in my opinion were irreverent. Today’s readings is an admonishing about this exact issue:

But avoid irreverent, empty chatter, which will only lead to more ungodliness,

2 Tim 2:16 BSB

As the year comes to an end and I start reflecting on how I can be better in the new year, this will definitely be something I would watch out for: empty, idle, and godless chatter and babbling about people and situations and instead try to be flavour my conversations with grace and season it with salt.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:6 NIV

I have always wondered what it means to season one’s conversation with salt- I assume it was an expression that came from the ancient Near East. To take it literally, I look at the function of salt in adding taste, adding flavour, and preserving and I think this is what conversations with every one I encounter should be like. People should walk away feeling enriched and with their dignity preserved and that is what seasoning my conversations with salt mean to me. What does that statement mean to you?

Yours Truly

Advent Calendar day 20: God of Possibilities

In my last post I shared about a meeting I had over the weekend with a few friends and how that really encouraged me. During this time, we got to reflect on the year and a theme one of my friends focused on was the fact that nothing is impossible with God. As I reflected on my year, I realized many areas of my life where I had let God take control of but there were other areas where I had relied heavily on my own abilities or had placed my confidence in others only to be disappointed. I know cerebrally that God can do the impossible but sometimes by my actions, I had declared that there were things even God could not help me with. By not entrusting those problems with God and trusting Him for solutions, I had unconsciously decided that those problems were too big for God. In today’s reading, I was reminded of a hymn we used to sing in Bible study over 20 years ago:

…for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.

2 Timothy1:12

Through out the year, have there been things in your life that you have excluded God from simply because you don’t want to bother God with that? Or have you ever felt that He is too big for your small problem? or He has answered too many prayers and you don’t want to be greedy with one more request? Well Paul reminds us that God is able to take care of whatever we entrust to Him regardless of how big or small. He is the God of possibilities.

Yours Truly

P.s. Thanks Nathan!

Advent Calendar day 18: Our Secret Thoughts

Yesterday I met with a group of my friends who have been constant in my life for the past few years. During this meeting, one of them shared about the most impactful things he has learned all year. Here is a summary of it:

He spoke about the power of our thoughts and the fact that God responds to our thoughts more than we think. He illustrated using the story of when the devil thought in his heart to be like God and by the many times Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because of what they were thinking in their hearts. In the words of my friend, prayer is not just about what we say aloud to God- our whole life is prayer and so is our thoughts. What have your thoughts been saying to God recently? How would God judge your thoughts? How well do your thoughts represent you before God? as i pondered over what he said a scripture came to mind:

O LORD, you have searched me [thoroughly] and have known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up [my entire life, everything I do]; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And You are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue [still unspoken], Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And [You have] placed Your hand upon me. Such [infinite] knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high [above me], I cannot reach it.

Psalm 139:1-6 AMP

God is interested in every detail of our lives including our thoughts. That is an area that we must also surrender to the lordship of Jesus. Many of us think as long as thoughts reside in our minds and hearts and we never speak them then we are entitled to the privacy of those thoughts. However, this scripture tell us no thought is as private as we think it is. God is intimately acquainted with those secret thoughts- good or bad. So today my prayer for you as is for myself is simple: that the peace of God would garrison our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4: 7) and that every single one of our thoughts would be taken captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:5).

Yours Truly

P.s. Thanks Bari

Advent Calendar day 17: The conclusion of it all

As we come to the end of the book of Ecclesiates, I have reflected on it all and realized the whole book culminates in a few simple key advice:

  • Be content with the life you have and find joy in the days you have been blessed with
  • Life lived without a higher purpose is meaningless because our toil and status on earth does not hold any currency in the afterlife
  • Finding purpose cannot be done apart from God

Solomon concludes Ecclesiates with a reflection on what gives meaning to life and what finding higher purpose looks like

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

Ecclesiastes 12: 13 NIV

We make our lives meaningful on earth by using it to secure a place in God’s kingdom for all eternity. Our life takes on meaning when everything we do in public and in secret is geared towards living in complete obedience to God’s will and purpose for our lives

For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12: 14 NIV

These words are certainly worthy of pondering over.

Yours Truly

Advent Calendar day 16: A Wise Heart

I recall in my younger years I did something that I still regret to this day. Although it was a single incident that perhaps may not even be remembered by parties involved, I certainly remember and it colors that time of my life. Have you had a moment’s lapse in judgement where you said or did something that changed everything? Today’s reading hits the nail right on the head with this proverb:

As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.

Ecclesiastes 10:1 NIV

In this scripture, folly is contrasted against wisdom and honor and has been described to be the undoing of both. Folly can come in many forms- a small act of unkindness, a moment of anger, a rash decision or a harsh word can cost a person a great deal. It can cast a shadow on one’s bright future, can close doors of opportunity and can bring great misfortune. We need to apply ourselves to wisdom in all our endeavors and a wise heart dictates that there is a proper time and place for everything

Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a person may be weighed down by misery.

Ecclesiastes 8:5-6 NIV

So how do we respond to this advice? The psalmist prays “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12) and I today I pray same of God.

Dear Heavenly Father, teach us to realize the brevity of life, help us to number our days and redeem the time you have given us. And above all, give us a heart of wisdom so we are not entrapped by folly. Amen.

Yours Truly

Advent Calendar day 15: Finding Balance

Have you ever met some who was utterly unreasonable or very set in their ways to the extent that they would not listen to reason? This year, I encountered a few people whom I would describe as extreme. I had to deal with someone extremely wicked, someone who could not be pleased by anything anyone did, someone who was so self-righteous their self-righteousness could outshine the sun, someone who was so stubborn and opinionated it has probably cost them more than they have to spare and someone who was so bitter and unforgiving they could not see when they were hurting themselves in the process. Have you encountered any body like this or are you such a person?

In today’s reading, God encourages us to find balance in all things and avoid extremes:

Do not be over-righteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.

Ecclesiastes 7: 16-18 NIV

Earlier this week, we spoke about times and seasons for everything and God has instituted everything in its place so we can be balanced. Another scripture that captures the need for balance in every thing is this prayer of Agur to God:

…give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, `Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

Proverbs 30: 8b-9 NIV

Moderation and temperance are very important virtues in finding balance in life. Everything needs to be done in moderation and as the year closes, many of us need this reminder:

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

Philippians 4:5

Yours Truly