Wired for Happiness? Yes.

happiness

Happiness! God made your brain in such a way that you can radiate the joy of inner happiness every day. Amazing, isn’t it!

Best-selling conservative Christian author Randy Alcorn says in his book Happiness:

Many believers are taught that God wants us to be holy but not happy and that joy and happiness are fundamentally different. We’ve even been left with the impression that God himself isn’t happpy. Yet nothing could be further from the truth!

Wouldn’t you love to know how to practically and effectively think better throughts that align with written God’s Word? That’s what this post is all about.

  1. God knows science!
  2. Creating on-going happiness.
  3. 3-minute focus.

As you think healthy, godly thoughts, these new positive thoughts rewire your brain.. The new “grooves” become automatic positive thoughts and replace automatic negative thoughts. As your thoughts change so do your emotions.

God Knows Science!

Late last century, scientists began proving what God knew all along:

What you think every moment of every day deeply affects you.

Your mind is designed to control the body. Not the other way around.

While you and I cannot control the circumstances of life,

we can control our response.

Neuroscientific research underscores the truth of this verse:

As a man thinks, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7

Crazy as it may sound, your thought life contributes to a whopping 75 to 98 percent of mental, physical, and behavioral illness, says Dr. Caroline Leaf, a specialist in traumatic brain injuries and learning disabilities, and author of several books including Switch on Your Brain (Baker Books, 2013).

Our Great Physician has a remedy.

Call it the 4:8 prescription, if you like.

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 about such things.

Philippians 4:8

True, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy — this is where God wants your focus. For a good reason. Keep reading.

Creating On-Going Happiness

As you think about “such things,” you experience a happy peace. In his letter to his like-minded friends in Philippi, a city in the Middle East, a Christ follower named Paul said, “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.”

He encouraged joy and hope and loving God, knowing the results of love-in-action are peace and contentment.

More great news: You can observe your thoughts and make decisions about them! Yes, you can become aware of what you’re thinking and choose healthy thoughts leading to happiness.

God has a lot to say about the mind. The Bible speaks of “bringing every thought into captivity,” “renewing your mind,” and “be anxious for nothing.” God’s emphasis on your inner thought life makes sense when you know his amazing plan for you:

creating a life of contentment in Christ.

Make no mistake. A happy life of contentment isn’t comfort. Choosing Jesus first is outrageously uncomfortable yet always the pathway to true happiness.

3-Minute Thought Focus

Important to a happy life of contentment in Christ is tuning in to your negative self-talk so you can identify it as decrepit. Then you change it to positive inner thoughts.

First do this:

  1. Find a quiet place to sit, and take two or three deep breaths. Feel your body begin to relax.
  2. For a minute or two minutes, tune in to your self-talk. What are you saying to yourself? Jot down a few of your thoughts.

Now do this:

  1. Ask yourself, Is my thought negative? Is it killing my mood?
  2. Then ask, What positive 4:8 thought can replace this negative thought? Write it down.

EXAMPLE:

Negative thought: “My boss is a jerk. She says I can’t do anything right!”

4:8 thought: “I choose to work hard even though my boss is inconsiderate. I know God is with me and gives me wisdom in handling this work relationship, so I trust him.”

During the rest of the day:

Every time you have the negative job thought, replace it with the positive 4:8 thought.

Happy on Repeat!

As you replace your negative thought with the new positive, God-honoring thought, your brain makes new neural pathways. When you repeat the new thought, this new pathways gets “grooved” so that your positive thought becomes automatic.

Just think–by improving the environment of your inner thought life, you’ll experience peace, contentment, and extra happiness. 

To help your happy success, I created the “Transform Your Thought Journal,” free to you when you subscribe to my blog. Go to my website and get your journal. Click here now.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart!

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Laugh: It’s Good for Your Soul!

laugh

Laugh your head off! It’s good for your soul!

Have you seen a hilarious YouTube video and laughed so hard you nearly peed in your pants? Laughter is medicine to the soul.

The other day my teenage son sprawled on the couch in the loft and was laughing so hard that I had to find out why. John was watching Impractical Jokers and saw Joe pull a good-hearted prank on Sal. His chuckles rolled into laughter as infectious as the common cold. I laughed too, and it felt good.

Listen to this:

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

And this:

A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:13)

Laugh with Jesus

Jesus laughed too. Soon after healing many (Luke 4:40-41) including a man with a skin disease (Luke 5:12-13) and a paralytic (Luke 5:24-25), Jesus sought the lowliest of the low–a Jewish tax collector, hated other Jews–and said, “Follow me.” At once this man left everything, even his bags of coins, and asked Jesus to come to his home where he threw Jesus a party.

Can you hear the laughter? As Jesus and the tax collector and a gaggle of his low-life, raucous sinner-friends gathered, don’t you this they grinned and joked and laughed? Jesus was a scholar and had fun. Can you imagine how the party-goers responded? The God-man was with them, just as he is with you, when you’re crying and giggling.

Oh how they laughed in the home of the tax collector. Laughter of freedom from chains of sin, laughter of breaking bread at a party for the best known rabbi in town at the home of a sinner. The wine flowed. Platters of food made the rounds. Laughter rang.

Scandalous!

Beautiful!

Healing!

To the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who tsk-tsked Jesus for laughing his head off with tax collectors and sinners–imperfect people like you and me–Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:31-32)

Healing Laughter

We each have a testimony — a story of how Jesus became real to us as Savior–and every story is a reason to smile, to laugh, for God broke in to a sorry life and made it whole. Angels celebrated. Can you imagine their joyful laughter? Another one belongs to Jesus. And another one. And another one.

This one an adulterer, that one filled with jealousy, and over here a woman dripping self-righteousness. Yep, the latter is me. You can read my testimony here.

5 More Laughs

As you probably know, medical science has uncovered the laugh-your-way-to-health truth in study after study. Google laughter health and you’ll find umpteen studies to peruse. That said, here are five belly-laughing sure bets:

  1. Watch your favorite funniest sitcom.
  2. Play with your toddler. Don’t have a little one at home? Scout out a park bench at a popular park and little-people watch.
  3. Visit the zoo. Skip the reptile house and head straight for the baboons by way of dolphins.
  4. Read a joke book.
  5. Roll down a grassy hill, blow bubbles, or play Hide-and-Seek.

Laugh at the Days to Come!

Just as Jesus laughed and enjoyed himself,  you too can laugh because you have the best reason of all. Do you know what it is?

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come. (Proverbs 31:25)

Christ is your strength (Ps. 118:14). Christ clothes you with his righteousness (Romans 13;14). Christ is your good shepherd who will never leave nor forsake you. He overflows your cup. Whether you’re facing the hardship of bad health or the loneliness of loss or the scary emotions of fear or anger or despair, you CAN delight in Christ.

Yes, you CAN laugh at the days to come. You CAN laugh your head off.

Need help finding your laugh? I’ll help. Contact me.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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Emotions Reveal Your True Thoughts

emotionsYOUR EMOTIONS tell you a lot about your thoughts. Guess where your thoughts originate? Your thoughts come from your deeply held beliefs! When your beliefs line up with God’s Word, you experience a transformed life

You feel what you feel because you think what you think. What does this have to do with a transformed life? More than you might imagine. Your thoughts are the key to transformation.

In the short article, you’ll discover:

  1. Emotions “talk.”
  2. Change your thoughts, and you’ll change your emotions.
  3. Experiencing life transformation.

Emotions Say Something Important

Emotions “talk.” They reveal thoughts. When you know what you’re thinking you can ask yourself, Do my thoughts agree with God’s Word.

To see how this works, “hear” the thoughts in this parable where the rich man feels the emotion of fear of loss.

And he (Jesus) told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’

And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’

But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21, ESV)

In the parable, the rich man thought he’d have his crops a long time and told himself to relax, eat, drink, and be merry (actions). His thoughts and actions were based on the godless belief that pleasure is what matters, not God. His fearful emotion was an early signal to pay attention to his thoughts and change them as necessary.

What is one of your common thoughts?

  • Life’s not fair?
  • I’m a loser/ugly/stupid?
  • If I had more money/status/popularity, then I’d be happy?

Ask yourself, Does my thought agree with Scripture?

Change Your Thoughts and Emotions Change

Years ago I counseled a Christian woman I’ll call Anna, who was sexually abused by a family friend at age 13. This family friend led a Christian camp, contributing to her twisted image of God. To her God was weak and uncaring, even evil.

She thought sex was a way to get what she wanted most: affection and love. She settled for the false love of naked embraces and murmured “I love you”s” from high school boys.

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23, NIV

In time, Anna discovered that only God fulfills her deep need for true love. Her emotions changed from fear and sadness to peace and contentment. Her beliefs changed too as she believed God’s Word and applied its truths to her life.

Experience Life Transformation

Believing the Word of God is crucial to thinking in line with God’s thoughts. As you believe God and spend time reading and meditating on Bible verses, God renews your mind. He transforms your life. Check out Romans 12:2.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” 

As God transforms your thinking, your actions change too.

  • You thank God for your home rather than complaining about your old furniture.
  • You pray more often because you want to draw near to God.
  • You replace the habit of spending hours on Facebook with spending time with your kids.

As you take your eyes off your emotions and as your thoughts change, guess what happens? You begin to experience inner contentment, joy, hope, and peace. Who doesn’t want the abundant life?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10, ESV

 

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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Reclaim Purity in a Sexy Culture

purity

Doesn’t purity seems “old-fashioned” and “not relevant” in today’s sexy culture? Many Christian girls and women have given in to peer pressure and media messages that you’re weird if you aren’t sexually active. You remember what it was like to be young, hormones raging, don’t you?

Did you or a someone dear to you have sex before marriage? What did a loss of purity cost them or you?

In this short article, you’ll learn:

  • the statistics on purity among young adult Christians
  • the pressures to have sex before marriage
  • how to reclaim purity

“Our souls crave intimacy”—Erwin Raphael McManus

Like other Christian women, you may have planned to remain a virgin until your wedding night but then. . .your Christian girlfriends were sexually active and you thought, “What’s the harm,” or. . .your boyfriend pressured you to have sex, or. . .you were drunk and one thing led to the other. . .

The truth is: You can start over from where you are right now. You can find hope, help and healing.

Statistics on Purity

Are single Christians having sex?

Eighty percent of unmarried young adults (ages 18-29) who are self-identify as evangelical Christians have had sex, reports a study by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The same study reported that this percentage is slightly less than the 88 percent for all unmarried young adults.

Yet virginity may be on the rise, suggests a 2011 report from the National Center for Health Statistics. Twelve years ago 22 percent of men and women under age 24 said they were abstinent. Five years later that figure stood at 29 percent for women and 27 percent for men.

TRUTH: Real intimacy is not found just by merging bodies in sex. There’s a high emotional component.

Pressures Against Purity

including Porn!

MEDIA, CULTURE, MUSIC, PORN: The media markets sex. The culture encourages it. Music celebrates it. Pornography is so widespread that few Christian men and women (and children) have not seen it. Pornography creates a sick misunderstanding of God’s gift of sex. It become extremely selfish.

God designed sex to be selfless and beautiful–and between a husband and wife. In the Song of Solomon, the author Solomon describes the sexual longing of the woman on her wedding night:

Awake, O north wind,

And come, O south!

Blow upon my garden,

That its spices might flow out.

Let my beloved come to his garden

And eat its pleasant fruits (4:16).

LATER FIRST MARRIAGES: The average age for first marriages has increased over several decades. In 1965, the average man first married at age 22.8; the average woman, 20.6. In 2010, the average age was 28.1 for men and 26.1 for women, according the U.S. Bureau of Statistics.

Purity rings and True Love Waits campaigns don’t appeal to 30-something singles.

A college-educated, 27-year-old Christian woman told me, “I didn’t have sex in my teens and early twenties but now I have a boyfriend. I don’t sleep around. I’m careful with whom I have sex. Marriage isn’t what it used to be. It’s a different today.”

BIRTH CONTROL. Before the advent of the birth control control pill in 1960s, getting married and having babies went hand in hand. Now couples could have sex with little concern for pregnancy, removing a main reason for marriage. Says Albert Mohler in We Cannot Be Silent: “So long as sex was predictably related to the potential of pregnancy, a huge biological check on sex outside of marriage functioned as a barrier to sexual immorality. Once that barrier was removed, sex and children became effectively separated and sex became redefined as an activity that did not have any necessary relation to the gift of children. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the separation of sex and babies from the moral equation.”

A Story of Reclaimed Purity

Naomi (a composite of women I have counseled) desires to one day marry a Christian man, but her teens read like read like a Harlequin. As long as she liked the guy, they concluded the date in bed. Most of her friends did the same thing. What’s the cost of lost purity? How does lost purity hurt a Christian woman?

As Naomi and I talked, I learned that her upbringing influenced her view of her sexuality. Her dad was emotionally unavailable, and a family member had touched her inappropriately. She heard the gospel through a campus ministry and became a Christian but old patterns clung like Velcro. She still liked guys’ attention and was tempted to have sex with them. She struggled with feelings of remorse, confusion, and worthlessness.

In counseling she and other singles I’ve counseled discovered three important truths.

  1. God helps you overcome temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

To face temptation, why not choose to be confident in the truth of God’s Word? Cultivate a daily walk with Jesus through prayer and Bible reading? Connect with a church? Commit to being thankful?

2. You are complete in Christ. Marriage doesn’t complete a woman, Jesus does. I counseled a woman who deeply desired marriage. Two disappointing relationships with men she met through an online Christian dating service brought her to my office. She felt depressed. She had the wrong belief she’d be happy only in marriage. During our time together she learned that singleness can be a gift (1 Corinthians 7:32-35) and she needed to wait on God’s timing (Psalm 91:2).

3. Choose to embrace “renewed abstinence.”

Renewed abstinence is obeying God’s Word to wait for sex until marriage. It’s reclaimed purity. God promises to help you as you build godly relationships with with fellow believers, both men and women.

Do you struggle with purity? Do you have questions about choices you made in your past? Do you want contentment? Please send me a message and will can talk and/or set up a counseling appointment by Skype or in person (in Chicago area).

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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New Way to See Your Mess-Ups

mess-ups

Mess-ups! Would you like to see yours in a new way? A better way?

Mess-ups are mistakes. They also are growth opportunities. God can turn your mess-ups into masterpieces when you choose to see them in a new way, his way.

In this short article, I’ll share:

  1. Some of my mess-ups that became pretty.
  2. The very special God-given instruction to see them afresh.
  3. How you can beautify your mess-ups too.

My Mess-Ups, Beautified

Friend, in this short list I’ll name just two of my many mistakes.Then I’ll reveal heart change for life change. What mess-ups is God asking you admit? Did you know change begins when you own up to your mistakes? Once you admit them, then you can learn from them and experience uplifting, godly change.  

EXAMPLE 1: Stuffing my anger. At early as I can remember, I stuffed my anger and fear. This resulted in discouragement and eventually depression. Then I began to apply this biblical truth to my heart.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15, NIV

Heart change: A desire to obey God and follow his instruction to speak the truth in love, which required me to open my mouth. For me. . .scary!

Life change: As I spoke the truth in love with the person who angered me, I felt peace. . .even when the other person disagreed. I knew speaking the truth in love honored God.

EXAMPLE 2: Fear of disapproval. Years ago while driving on a six-lane highway, I had a freaky panic attack, completely unexpected. I had another one in the same place the next day and the next. Weeks later, I recognized that just before the first panic attack I was playing a bad tape in my mind of a grueling conversation with a coworker. I feared her angst and my boss’ opinion.

‘We must obey God rather than men.’ Acts 5:29, ESV

Heart change: A determination to please God most of all, not people. I had hated people’s disapproval. The strength to obey God grew from learning his attributes while reading the Bible and through prayer.

Life change: With practice, I renewed my thinking and God freed me from panic attacks and people-pleasing.

God’s Special Instruction

The Lord instructs you to build your life on what matters most of all–God’s Word.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. Matthew 7:24-25

Wise women build their life on the foundational truths in the Bible. In its pages, you’ll discover

  • who God is.
  • who you are.

Says Sinclair Ferguson: “Almost every area problem or failure in the Christian live is in some way rooted in the fact that we do not understand or we forget who God is and who we are.” Doesn’t this make a lot of sense? Does your spirit agree?

Beautify Your Mess-Ups

May I challenge you? It’s customary for me to give assignments to my counselees.

I have one for you. It’ll help you know God through Scripture. Open your Bible to Ephesians 1 and begin listing who God is, verse by verse. The first three are below. Keep adding to the list. You may reach 20, even more.

  1. a grace-giver (verse 2)
  2. one who blesses (verse 3)
  3. a planner (verse 4)

When you believe God is who he says he is, your thinking is renewed and you will begin to think rightly. As you think rightly, you will experience peace and contentment. You’ll even see your mess-ups as opportunities to make masterpieces.

FREE CONSULT: For a free, 20-minute consultation to find out how biblical counseling can help you or a friend, please contact me. Thanks!

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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Do You Complain? Does Your Kid?


complain

People who complain. . .how do they learn to stop?

In this short article, you’ll learn:

  1. Complaining is the sad norm.
  2. The real message that complaining sends.
  3. A solution to complaining.

Join the Crowd

Haven’t we all been guilty of complaining at one time or another? The other day, my 17 year old complained that:

  • He wasn’t allowed pizza rolls in his bedroom.
  • We said “no” to his plan to drive 60 miles on unfamiliar roads.
  • He had to pick up wet towels and hang them on a towel rod.

Your complaints may sound different from a teenager’s complaints.

Your friend forgets your birthday. A virus invades your hard drive. Your boss gives the better project to your coworker. Each of these scenarios are fodder to complain and grumble. What circumstances led to your complaints this week?

Real Message of Complaining

Complaining sends a message through words, tone or voice, and body language: “It’s not fair.”

A kid might say or think, “It’s not fair that my friend gets an iPhone and I don’t.” Or, “His family is spending the day at a water park and I’m stuck at home.”

Ultimately the “it’s not fair” message points a finger at God. 

When your kid complains–when you complain–your heart reveals self-centered sorrow. You feel angry and your anger may turn to bitterness. You think God hasn’t treated you fairy. You might even think that God’s made a big mistake.

In the Old Testament, Job (pronounced jobe) questioned God’s wisdom in letting horrible things happen to him–the deaths of his ten children and the obliteration of his livestock as well as his own ruined health. In chapters 38 to 40 of Job, God reminds him that he alone has limitless wisdom.

God’s main point: Who do you think you are, Job?

Speaking from a whirlwind, God says to Job:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
 On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone,
 when the morning stars sang together
    and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 38:4-7

God is wise, just, good, sovereign, love. Nothing happens in your life or your child’s life surprises God. When you feel confused and angry, God doesn’t need your advice or my advice. God invites you to deepen your trust.

God is trustworthy. He never makes mistakes. He loves you.

 A Solution to Complaining

Did you know that what you believe about God affects the way you think, feel, and act?

THREE TRUTHS:

  1. When you believe God is all-wise, you accept the truth that what God does is for your good and his glory, even though you may not understand God’s reasons.
  2. When you believe is God’s sovereign, you believe the truth that he is fully capable of devising how to handle your situation.
  3. When you believe God is good, you acknowledge that God knows why you have problems and shows you the best way to resolve them.

As you choose to act as a child of God, guess what happens?

Gratitude bubbles up in you and overflows your life. Gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic. You don’t whitewash the bad things in life. Pain and injustice exist in this world.

When you focus on God’s gifts of life, you gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude brings balance and hope. Do you have a grateful heart? Think of several things to write on your very own gratitude list.

Here’s how I began my gratitude list:

red geraniums

butterflies

friends who listen

dark chocolate

the color purple

the ability to read and walk and sleep deep

As you practice gratitude, you’ll complain less often. When you fall back into grumbing, you’ll be quick to confess your grumbling to God, and repent. You’ll discover new hope. As the psalmist says,

The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him and I am helped; Therefore, my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him. Psalm 28:7

Sharing hope with your heart,

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