Our thoughts determine the degree of suffering we will endure…

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We are continually tapped into God. He never leaves us. We have access to strength and peace at all times, even in the middle of really difficult times. Our thoughts determine whether or not we will have access to peace or suffering.

I love hiking. As I write this, I’m sitting on top of a mountain. Its mid-July, 85 degrees which is extremely hot when you’re hiking straight up a mountain with the sun beating down on you. As I hiked up this mountain, I experimented with my thoughts. First, as I hiked, I thought of everything bad and dwelled on these bad aspects of the hike: It’s bloody hot, The hills are brown, the dirt is dusty, I can’t breathe, my heart is pounding, I’m so sweaty, this is a crazy thing to do, I should turn around, my legs are burning, I’m tired, this hill is so steep, I don’t think I can make it, I don’t have to do this, I hate this hike, and so on. After about 15 minutes, I was ready to turn around. It was awful. My body responded to my thoughts and I felt like I was dying.

Next, I stopped and drank a little water and then started the next phase of my experiment. I changed my thoughts. I connected to God. As I began to hike up the steep, hot hill, I changed my thoughts: Thank you Lord for this body that works, thank you for this beautiful mountain, thank you for the trees, the flowers, and the birds. I paused and let the beauty soak into my soul with a grateful heart. Thank you for strong legs that work, strong lungs, and a strong heart. I can do this, one step at a time, I’ve got this, Thank you for this beautiful day! As my thoughts changed, I felt a cool breeze blow on the back of my sweaty neck. Thank you Lord for this lovely breeze! Next thing I knew, I was at the top of the mountain. The experience was completely different based on my thoughts.

During the first phase of the hike, there were beautiful trees, flowers, birds, and a breeze; however I didn’t have access to enjoy the benefits of these aspects of the hike. These bits of beauty brought me peace when I focused on them. When I focused on my suffering, the degree of suffering that I endured multiplied.

When I was first kidnapped, my thoughts went wild with panic. I thought, “I can’t believe this is happening, what’s going to happen to me? Is he going to kill me? Is he going to rape me? Will I ever see my family again? Am I going to die?” My heart was pounding so hard that I could clearly hear the pounding in my ears. It felt as if my heart would actually pound out of my chest. At this time, I changed my thoughts: How will I get back home? As I lay on the floor of the car curled in a little ball, I began to memorize where we were going so I would know how to get back. We’re going straight, stopped once, and stopped twice, turning right, stopping once, turning left, etc. I replayed these directions over and over in my head and focused on making it back home.

As I changed my thoughts, I had access to calming my heart and my lungs. My mind calmed so that I was able to think clearly to strategize how to stay alive and ultimately make it back home.

The thoughts that we think every day, determine the degree of suffering we will endure and when we control our thoughts we have access to our creator – who provides peace, creativity, strength and joy.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, 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 of such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Jesus – Philippians 4:8-9

When the Going get Tough, the Tough get Going…

When the going gets tough, the tough get going…
These are the words that my dad told to me whenever times were a little hard. I never really liked hearing those words and when I appeared to not like what he was saying, he would follow up with a smile and a wink and say, “ya gotta be tough, right kid?” Life had taught him what I hadn’t yet learned. If you don’t choose to press on, the alternative is worse. The minute you give up, the minute you stop trying, at that moment, you lose your dream. You lose a bit of purpose for your life. That decision becomes a fork in the road of your life. So, you’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to keep trying. There’s no shame in failing. Just keep trying. Don’t give up. It’s hard to keep going sometimes, but it’s better than the alternative.
At the end of my kidnapping experience, I was dropped off in the hills to die. I had been beaten so badly that when my brother saw me, he said he wouldn’t have recognized me. My throat was slashed and blood was soaked into my clothes all the way down to my waist. To say I was exhausted was an understatement. The last thing I felt like doing was hiking through the hills. I wanted to lay down and rest. I found a large rock that was at the perfect angle to lean back and rest my head comfortably so I decided to sit down. My plan was to take a little nap before hiking to find help. Just as I closed my eyes, my mind became very loud. “Wake up! Get up and walk! Wake up! Wake up!” I tried to silence my mind, but it was useless. Perhaps this is how God helps us in our trials. What appears to be a random thought, may actually be help from above. We really are never alone. Since I was unable to rest, I got up and started walking. “You gotta be tough, right kid.”
Growing up, I was never what anyone would have called a “tough” person, but sometimes, being tough is the only choice we have. The doctors told me that if I had fallen asleep, that I wouldn’t have woken up.
In everyday life, we have hard times – very hard times. Even so, we can’t stop trying. We must press on to get to the other side of the storm in our life; to get through the fire. “Tough” is not a quality that’s only available to body builder, or CEO, type A people. Being tough is available to everyone. We have a Heavenly Father who has promised to take our burdens, if we ask. Asking for help is not always easy to do. Sometimes we don’t want to surrender and ask for help, but help is available. That choice is up to us. Our thoughts can get in the way of asking for help so remember… your thoughts determine the amount of suffering that you will endure.
“but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“Ya gotta be tough, right kid?”