Is Your Mind a Mess in the Morning?

Ever find yourself launching a mental argument with your boss/customer/spouse/kid two minutes after crawling out of bed? There you are sleepy-eyed, brushing your teeth, practicing how you’re going to set them straight. Adrenaline slips through your veins and you walk out of the bathroom angry, bitter and depressed, cobbling together a defense against grievances real and imagined.

Or is it just me?

In cattle this is called “being on the muscle,” and frankly I don’t want to act like some pissed off cow 16 hours a day. But for a long time I thought I had no choice – I didn’t know I could control my mind.

 Villefranche

My teacher says our minds are the battlefield and whoever wins control of that ground, commands the whole person and ultimately the whole life. That’s why, she says, satan works hard to crank us up first thing in the morning, before we’re even really conscious. If I am mad before I leave the bathroom I spread strife and bitterness like a champ.

Ever considered that?

Nice Lights

Where does your morning depression come from? Were you depressed when you went to bed? What are you so mad about? Are you dreading something? Dread is a relative of fear, you know, so what are you afraid of?

Maybe, just maybe, someone is planting your garden for you.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph 6:12

But why are spiritual forces interested in keeping me bitter and depressed? Well, look around at all the “angry Christians” – an oxymoron if there ever was one –  do you want what they have? Depression, anger and fear hinder the love of God and remember, this is war.

So here’s what to do about it:

1. Notice it. Stop bushing your teeth and watch the angry nonsense. WTF is a rational response.

2. Stop it and replace it with something else – a mantra.

Nice Sea

I use this little book all the time to help me. It lists hundreds of scriptures by topic – anger, depression, fear, worry, money, rejection, patience etc. Each scripture is reworked into the first person and meant to be spoken aloud. The Bible says words are containers for power, so why not fill our space with the word of God rather than the black smoke of our bitter fulminations?

So, try it and tell me what happens. And in case you’re short on time, I’ve pasted a few on my pix of the French Riviera, tailor-made for your bathroom mirror. Feel free to print em up.

What are some of your favorites?

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Why Bother with Jesus?

Eating lunch in a French cafe last week, Sam and I were playing a game called: You just won the lottery, what will you do with the money?

It’s a useful exercise because the question really asks: Without limitations, perceived or actual, what would you do with your life?

IMG_8737“Well, I’d have a nice ranch with cattle,” he said.

“You already have that.” I reminded him.

“I’d travel more.”

“What are you talking about, we just ordered lunch in French.”

“Ok, I’d buy a new truck.”

“Come on, you’re going to do that anyway.”

What we think we want is money. What we really want is joy.

It’s tempting to believe we could have better lives if we only had more money. Obviously in some cases that’s true, but in France I caught myself wishing I too could drink wine on my sparkly, white yacht before sailing to Villefranche or Monaco. Unfortunately, that craving threatened to eclipse the simple joy of watching the boats from my balcony in Nice.

Even though I know better, I still behave like money guarantees happiness. Please everybody, raise your hand if you know a wealthy person who is a howling, insufferable mess.

In my mind, that is best answer to the question: Why bother with Jesus?

When you get everything you want and it’s still not enough, crushing despair is often the bonus in the box. What do you do then? Go get more boxes? Buddha said that wouldn’t work. Jesus did too. He said over and over, don’t strive, don’t hoard, and he followed up with this advice:

“While you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and there is nothing that I need,’ you have no eyes to see that you are wretched, pitiable, poverty-stricken, blind and naked. My advice to you is to buy from me that gold which is refined in the furnace so that you may be rich… All those whom I love I correct and discipline. Therefore, shake off your complacency and repent.” Rev. 3:17-19

IMG_8430Before I was following Jesus I wasn’t greedy, I was complacent, which is a different and hard animal to break. So, how do you buy this gold from Jesus? What does that look like in practical terms? Here’s my hunch:

  • What matters to Jesus is usually opposite of what matters to us. So plan on that.
  • It’s going to involve doing things for people who won’t say thank you. Rinse, repeat.
  • It will cost something, probably a lot, maybe everything.

Wow, that sounds awesome sign me up!

But what if the return was joy? What if by buying this gold, rather than coveting and hoarding ours, we could live with unspeakable joy? What if  your joy bank was so full, overflowing so lavishly on other people, that they followed you asking your secret?

Would you do it?

Scripture Help for Depression & Anger.

A few people have asked, what’s up with The Bible stuff? Why are you doing it?

Here are the top three reasons:

  1. This isn’t me but it feels like it. Nice, France.

    I was anxious, lonely and depressed after moving to Texas. I thought, “if I don’t find something to help me get out of bed every day, I won’t.” I’d already read everything by Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Louise Hay, Eckhart Tolle and Oprah. I’d read The Purpose Driven Life, Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting, the Yoga Sutras and The Secret and I was still lying face down on my bed. Why not add The Bible to the list? Why not read the best-selling book of all time and do what it says as an experiment? That’s literally how much thought I put into this, nearly-three- year project.

  2. I wanted to be a writer, not an insurance salesman. I didn’t have the courage to pursue what I wanted and I was jealous of people who did.
  3. I was burdened with rancor for the Religious Right, Republicans, Monsanto, Karl Rove, The Bush Administration, BP, Enron, Lehmann Brothers, Fox News, the pharmaceutical industry and the machine that created Justin Bieber. But that was proving tiresome and unhelpful.

So I read The Bible, studied it and tried to do what it says. Here’s what things look like two and a half years later:

This isn’t me either. Not yet. Nice, France

  1. My life didn’t get easier. It got harder. The holy magic wand that many Christians secretly expect as a reward for their obedience, didn’t pass over my life and sparkle everything up. Instead, my attitude toward my circumstances changed, which takes practice. Life is hard now like swimming in the ocean is hard – especially when the current is strong – but I swim every day with determination because it’s rewarding. Eventually, I hope to swim gracefully, for long periods of time, with many other people, because swimming in the ocean is fun and an awesome privilege.
  2. I write every day. When I was stubbornly forcing my life, plotting, competing, conniving, I got to sell insurance. When, per The Bible’s suggestion, I surrendered all that to God, I got the space and the courage to write a book.
  3. Rancor still raises its ugly head but The Bible helps me choke it. I quit watching the news because the American media is in the business of feeding indignation. It was making me bitchy and that sometimes soured relationships with people I like, who happen to vote Republican. Thanks Google and Twitter for making this possible.

So here are two scriptures I used to combat depression and anger and one I used for courage. My teacher put the text in the first person, which makes them easy to say out loud. Stick them on the bathroom mirror. They help.

Depression – God is my shield, my glory and the lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3

Courage – I am strong, vigorous and very courageous, I am not afraid, neither am I dismayed for the Lord my God is with me wherever I go. Joshua 1:9

Anger – I speak soft answers that turn away wrath, not grievous words that stir up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Try it and let me know how it goes.