“…take captive every thought…”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that which I’ve been thinking.

You read that right; I’ve been thinking about my thoughts. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about why that matters and how to change my thinking on or about certain things.

It sounds complicated. Actually, it’s more confusing and frustrating than complicated, but it’s still odd and strange – perhaps a little weird – to think about that about which you’re thinking because, if you’re anything like me, you don’t even realize that you’re thinking something until you’ve already thought it.

I’ve wondered about this for a while now. I’ve wondered why the Bible tells Christians to “take every thought captive” and to think about things that could be described as good, pure, lovely, right, excellent, praiseworthy and admirable. There’s even a time when Jesus mentions draws a big crowd and brings up this idea. Christians now call it the Sermon on the Mount, and it’s pretty well known in church circles because it’s one of the few times we have Jesus’ words recorded at length in such a long preaching style. He seems to go on and on and on about what’s important to God and how someone who believes in God should act, and included in this is about how what we think is important. It’s not just a question of how we act in response to our thoughts, but our thoughts matter, too.

And that feels exhausting.

I’ve also wondered how to do this. Oftentimes, when I find my mind in a place where I’d prefer it not be or my thoughts are stuck on an issue, event or person that’s not where I’d like them to be, I get stuck there and can’t hit the reset button as easily as I’d like, particularly if I am by myself, which happens consistently living alone and having a job where I work part of the time from home. I actually wish I could be distracted during those times because if I’m around other people, it’s significantly more difficult to be trapped in my own head while focused on others. Alas, I can’t depend on or blame others for this and do hope to be more purposeful with such things.

You see, I am well aware how if my emotional position, productivity and perspective are effected when my thoughts get the best of me. I describe it as getting stuck in my head and may spill over onto others in the form of a bad attitude, annoying conversations or self-absorption. It’s not so pretty.

I started to wonder more and more about why this matters. Besides risking me not being the best me I can be around others, why does God seem to care so much about our thoughts?

If we keep our thoughts to ourselves and our mind-wanderings trapped in between our ears, why does it matter? Might I suggest that in my reading and exploring of the topic that it’s reasonable that the God of the universe not only cares about how we act and what we do but also about the state of our hearts. In fact, I think he cares more about that than we can even fathom in an overwhelmingly awesome way. I imagine that He knows that the largest joy-stealer can sometimes be ourselves, which is not what he wants for us. He actually commands us to be joyful, and Jesus said that He came so that we could have full, abundant lives (look it up – it’s true!). Yet more times than I imagine He’d hope for us, He sees us get anxious about concerns unworthy of such emotional attention and romanticize what could be for a number of situations, only to be proportionately disappointed of the reality that awaits, which might all be avoided if we merely walked onward with open hands instead of allowing our preconceived notions to preemptively destroy all good, lovely and excellent things.

I sometimes wonder if our own thoughts are the only thing getting in the way of what could be incredible and unexpected joy?

This makes sense. I can blog about this and articulate my thoughts on the issue in a way that reflects logic and clarity. One plus one equals two. Nevertheless, when it comes to how to actually practice these things, it gets overwhelming daunting yet surprisingly simple both at the same time.

Words Matter. Break-up advice from my older brother years ago that made me want to punch him in the face at the time was to not talk about the guy – ever – who was causing much emotional angst in my life at the time. When I began to intentional leave his name or anything associated with this person out of all conversation, I noticed a remarkably quick and effective difference in my broken heart. It began by biting my tongue and walking away from conversations in which he was mentioned to not even remembering his presence or noticing things that reminded me of him. That about which I talked was that about which thought.

Memorize Scripture. Yes, this sounds completely cliche and the “Christian” thing to do, but it’s true. When I started thinking about the idea about being intentional with my thoughts, I started by memorizing a Bible verse. Think that’s easy for the girl who works at a church and went to Seminary? Um. No. I’ve gone to church my entire life and can barely recite more than a few verses without blips and “something like that” tossed in at the end. I actually confess that I avoid challenging others with this discipline in my job as a pastoral figure because I fail so miserably when attempting it myself…and who wants to look like a failure or hypocrite? But, people, it works.

Just Do it. It takes conscious effort to direct the unconscious wonderings of one’s mind. There have been times when I’ve caught my mind wandering to a place where I know it’s not good, and I mentally kick and scream, throwing an internal temper-tantrum, not wanting to “get over,” “move on” or not dwell on something that’s not godly, right, true, pure, excellent, admirable or praise-worthy. I want to stay mad at that girl for hurting my feelings. I want to let my mind drift into the romanticized “what if” of career aspirations or a relationship. It’s easier that way, and I’m lazy.

I’m not one to make New Year’s Resolutions. I might change something or think about something for a season, but such ideas tend to be associated with an almost predictable failure that is neither pleasant nor encouraging. So I don’t do those, and this isn’t any sort of decision like that. But I do wonder what could be different about the girl whose blog you’re reading – different in a good way – at the end of 2013 if I spent a little more time thinking about that which I’ve been thinking?

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