Monthly Archives: August 2022

PATTERNS

Renew Your Mind–2 of 4 

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world

Romans 12:2

PATTERN OF THE WORLD

John French gives us a definition of the world pattern:

“…a floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations…which constitute a most real and effective power, being the moral or immoral atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale.”

Pastor Greg Boyd and Psychologist, Al Larson put it more concisely:

The world is a structure of presuppositions and values that work at cross-purposes with the plans and values of the all-good Creator” as defined in John 10:10.”

In research for my book about worldviews, Mining Reality and Truth, I found Boyd and Larson’s book Escaping the Matrix (Baker Books, 2005) very helpful in defining world patterns.

“The total packages of lies (and deceptions) that infiltrate our brains is ‘the pattern of this world—what we are calling The Matrix.” (Boyd & Larson, page 31)

“Christians sometimes think the pattern of the world is just about morally significant things—our problems with lust, greed, and the like. But the Matrix is about anything and everything that to any degree keeps the quality of our lives beneath the abundant life God created us to have and Jesus died for us to have.” (Boyd & Larson, page 39).

I was traveling and ministering alone on a Sunday morning in western Iowa. As I unloaded sound equipment my heart started pounding. It felt like my head was filling up with out-of-control thoughts, feelings, and foreign substance. My mind began to explain to me what was happening, but it was lying to me. Months of stress caught up with me. I was scheduled for a Sunday school seminar. I explained to the packed room full of people what was happening to me. I was attempting to protect myself from embarrassment and to put the folks at ease. A lady said, “I have anxiety and panic attacks, also. What is your usual reaction?” Wanting to get the class to laugh and put myself at ease I said, “I begin to take my clothes off.” No one laughed!

Someone in the room finally said, “Please don’t do that!” (Then! Laughter.)

While a person is in a panic attack or anxiety overload is not the time to attempt to teach them new patterns of thinking! All that person wants is relief or reassurance that they are not dying or about to totally lose control of bodily functions. The best thing for that person is to take control of their breathing and physical movement which will dispel adrenalin and the effects of cortisol. Breathing deeply will send messages to the brain—“Stand down. Calm is returning. Cancel firetrucks and ambulances.” The feeling of unreality will dissipate and connection to reality and truth will slowly be reestablished.

Lying down to breathe deeply is not an option in front of a class. The people will freak out! They will call for EMT help. That is exactly what I feared would happen and my mind developed and expanded that story going on in my head. I feared I would not be able to continue or would do something crazy and other possibilities my mind was lying to me about—in detail. So, I just kept talking and switched seminar topics to “Attacking Anxiety.”

“Anything and everything that to any degree keeps the quality of our lives beneath the abundant life…,” certainly describes what was happening and what I was thinking and feeling. The disturbing element is to realize that life can be hijacked by our patterns of avoidance and preoccupation, so we never have to feel that again. Fear of a specific fear will seek to control every piece of life. The ability to fight back or use spiritual armor must be learned prior to the crisis.

PATTERNS OF YOUR MIND

Do you recognize thinking patterns signaling that depression or anxiety is about to consume you like a wildfire? There is a gap between stimuli and reaction that may be small but is large enough for you to intercept the pattern. It is a learned skill.

I was able to tell that seminar group that I was having an anxiety issue because I examined my usual thinking and what my life had been for several months. I was traveling alone which usually makes me vulnerable to aggressive toxic emotions. No one is close to ask me questions. The day before, my granddaughter and daughter-in-law were in a car accident that did not look to them like an accident. No one was hurt, but I ruminated on the event and possibilities.

Where does your mind automatically go? Death? Illness? Failure? Incompetence? Guilt? Shame? Freaking out while shopping? Losing your self during a public appearance? When satan or demons come after you, what is their usual tactic? Is it fear, accusation, patterns of failure? Reminders of erroneous thinking? What did I miss?

Renewing your mind includes reframing the familiar patterns during your prayer and training sessions. Some of us have strong automatic negative thoughts and need meds to help break that automatic response until positive automatic reaction and thought patterns are practiced into habits. Two golden habits: Self-awareness and Self-care.

PATTERNS FOR MIND RENEWAL

Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, (Romans 12:2 J. B. Phillips).

“Embrace, don’t avoid anxiety.”

If we are not to allow the world to “squeeze us into its mold,” what “mold” are we to allow to shape us? Whatever pattern we embrace will become our automatic reaction and response. I will include St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Examen here as an example how we can renew our minds.

The Examen: A Daily Prayer

(From Google:)  St. Ignatius Loyola’s Examen is an opportunity for peaceful daily reflective prayer. It invites us to find the movement of God in all the people and events of our day. The Examen is simply a set of introspective prompts for you to follow or adapt to your own character and spirit.

(You will want  to use a journal or notebook to write your responses to these prompts to track your plans and monitor your progress.)

Begin with a pause and a slow, deep breath or two; become aware that you are in the presence of the Holy.

Thanksgiving

What am I especially grateful for in the past day . . .

The gift of another day…
The love and support I have received…
The courage I have mustered…
An event that took place today…

Petition

I am about to review my day; I ask for the light to know God and to know myself as God sees me.

You may want to pray “consolation” and “desolation” here.

Review

Where have I felt true joy today?

Did I Laugh today?
What has troubled me today?
What has challenged me today?
Where and when did I pause today?
Have I noticed God’s presence in any of this?

Response

In light of my review, what is my response to the God of my life?

A Look Ahead

As I look ahead, what comes to mind?
With what spirit (attitude) do I want to enter tomorrow?

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The Examen adapted by Baylor University

Traditionally, there are five movements or steps in the Examen. The following steps outlined below are adapted from the technique outlined in the Spiritual Exercises developed by Ignatius Loyola in the 16th century. St. Ignatius required his companions, the Jesuits, to practice the Examen daily at noon and before turning in for sleep.

Instruction:

  1. Acknowledge an awareness of God’s Presence.
  2. Review the day in a posture of gratitude.
  3. Recognize a “Consolation” and a “Desolation” from the day.
  4. Choose a “Desolation” to pray into.
  5. Look with hope for new tomorrow.

A consolation is an experience that causes you to feel fully alive, at peace, joyful, happy, comforted, whole, connected, your best self, etc. and could be understood as an experience in which you feel close God.

A desolation is an experience that causes you to feel drained of energy, frustrated, irritated, angry, sad, sorrowful, alone, isolated, unaccepted, fragmented, less than your best self, etc. and could be understood as an experience in which you feel far away from God

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“I have come to see that the normal Christian life means miracles, spiritual intervention, and revelation. It means peace, joy, love, a sense of well-being and purpose…”

Bill Johnson, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind,” (Destiny Image, 2014).

©2022 D. Dean Benton

Cucumbers–Passion, Panic, Purpose

Cucumbers, Passion, Panic, and Purpose (1 of 4)

A warning to gardeners. You can kill a cucumber plant with one erroneous act. A cucumber plant has one life-objective and that is to produce cucumber seeds. Its life purpose is reproducing its seed. A master gardener knows that the moment the plant produces a cucumber, and it begins to turn yellow, you must—I repeat—you must! pick that veggie. If that cucumber reaches maturity the plant will begin to die for it believes it has accomplished its purpose. When you pick that first growing cuke, the plant has a panic attack—“I’m going to fail my purpose!”  and will go into production mode—growing as many as possible. The plant’s purpose is in full attempt to reproduce.

I didn’t make that up. A professional gardener told that story with documentation.

Passion and purpose are central to life, physical health, and mental health. To abandon one’s purpose does ill to our deepest core. A mid-life crisis is ignited when a person begins to wonder if it has gotten too late to accomplish dreams or to do what is sensed to be the very reason they were placed on the earth.

I am going to work my way through Romans 12:1-2 with four pieces:

  1. Your Body
  2. Your Pattern
  3. Your Mind
  4. Your Self

These articles are not to refute all you’ve heard about Romans 12, but to share with you a teaching that applies to this season of our lives. It seems to me that this paragraph leads to two objectives: We are to do what is taught here that the Follower of Jesus will grow to maturity and that the will of God will be known—the Follower will be convinced and satisfied.

A friend asked a question in response to my last blog:

“Is being transformed an ongoing process towards what we are to become? Do we ever make it or is that the Perfection we will one day achieve?”

Transformation and “renewing your mind” in Romans 12:1-2 is do-able, reachable, and essential to mental health, learning and success. Again, renewal of the mind changes the brain and brings healing and homeostasis to the mind. We do not wait until reaching heaven for this. The resurrected body will have a mind that is always on the same page as God. It is this body of clay/dirt that can drift from eternal and heathy reality. It is not about perfection; it is about thinking from God’s perspective. Using another biblical phrase—We have the mind of Christ. Here. Now.

YOUR BODY—Living Sacrifice

“Give your body to God….” Romans 12:1 TLT

“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does tor you is the best thing you can do for Him” (

(Romans 12:1, Message).

This application of Apostle Paul’s instruction became real to me as I calculated Gen Z’s battle with anxiety and my own. Is paralyzing or tormenting anxiety, depression, burnout an example of a body being offered as a living sacrifice? It indeed could be seen as a contradiction.

Is anxiety, failure, viewing self as a victim or failure the will of God for any of His children? No! Regardless of how we learn the symptoms, whether from self-hatred, lack of sufficient nurturing or sufficient learning of essentials or abuse or abandonment it is not God’s will for us. God desires to heal the wounds or our personal neglect, so the Apostle tells us how to cooperate with The Healer: renew our minds: Build new mental habits, traits, and patterns.

An “offered body” is demonstrative. It shows what heart, mind and will are committed to. How we use our body as worship depends on our personal passion and purpose.

Dan Buettner talked to top scientists around the globe and then visited nations and communities where people live who have lived the longest. Buettner found several common traits, habits, patterns, and practices that connect to their long lives. These healthy regions are now called Blue Zones. Dan Buettner lists five lessons and one of them is…

“Okinawans call it ikigai, and Nicoyans call it plan de vida, but in both cultures the phrase essentially translates to ‘why I wake up in the morning.’ The strong sense of purpose possessed by older Okinawans may act as a buffer against stress and reduce their chances of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and stroke.”

Dr. Robert Butler and collaborators researched highly functioning people between ages of 55-92 and found that those expressing a “clear goal in life—something to get up for in the morning, something that made a difference”—lived longer and were sharper than those who did not.

A friend has been listening to me preach for 4-5 decades about the value of a “vision” to which we give our commitment and energy. She responded to one of my newsletters to ask, “Is it enough for me to teach my grandchildren and teach them ways of the Lord?” I thought of her when I read this from Dan Buettner’s analysis:

“A sense of purpose may come from something as simple as seeing that children or grandchildren grow up well.” The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner, National Geographic, ©2012).

I’ve been thinking about Caleb who at 85 told Joshua he was as capable at 85 as he was at 40-45. (Joshua 15:12-14). One of my next books should be titled, “Value of a Geezer with a Vision.”

Caleb positively proved his point. The people in the Blue Zones do also. I’ve also been listening to those who teach high school and college. In my study of anxiety, stress, depression and giving up, there are scary studies about the impact of Covid lockdown: “The world is suffering from a trauma—many are afflicted by PTSD.” I believe God heals. To maintain that healing we find His plan to change thinking habits. Somewhere in the healing sequence is adopting of our innate passion and purpose—the passion and purpose residing at our core.

Perhaps a case can be made that “the patterns of this world” is the greatest threat to the health and well-being of the person at mid-life. We become vulnerable at any age when our path to life-fulfillment, therefore satisfaction, is blocked.

Victor Davis Hansen, Professor at Hoover Institute at Stanford, says that the past three years has stripped this culture of wisdom. (Knowledge gives us a grip on data, Wisdom is the gift, skill, ability to know how to effectively apply that knowledge.) With a lack of wisdom, the ability to maintain hope or solve problems at the family or government level is extremely thin. The natural response is depression, anxiety, stress, and burnout, and movement toward giving up.

Dr. Daniel Amen teaches “Change your brain, change your life.” He means it literally. Neuroplasticity describes the ability and the fact that the brain can be changed. In fact, it changes in response to your choices and thinking. To neglect or lose our purpose can lead to fraying of love, joy, peace.

“Having a sense of purpose in life may help you live longer…,” Daniel Amen. He asks, “What is important to you? What do you care deeply about? What makes your brain sing? Answering these questions can help your mood; they can also help you live a longer, fuller life.” (Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, Page 131).

He says a person must care for his/her brain to do that. Commitment to God demands that we care for our brain and care for our mind. “It is just reasonable,” Apostle Paul says. Changing our brain—renewing of our mind—benefits us to “Conquer anxiety, depression, obsessiveness, lack of focus, anger and memory problems.”

The first step to renewing the mind is our commitment to God and invitation to Holy Spirit (Paraclete) to walk with us to succeed in renewal and mind transformation. The second step is to define our purpose.

Pastor Rick Warren says, “Write out your major goals and purpose.” He suggests we use the five essentials to guide us: Faith, Food, Fitness, Focus, Friends. Those frame our goals; I think our purpose answers why we are concerned about goals.

One of the most important books I have ever read is In Pursuit of Purpose by Myles Munroe.

Purpose is the master of motivation and the mother of commitment. It is the source of enthusiasm and the womb of perseverance. Purpose gives birth to hope and instills the passion to act. (Destiny Image ©1992.)

We met a lady in western Texas who had moved there from Boston. She had left all her friends, vocation, and church. She drifted into depression. She was physically weak and psychologically weak. She began to fight back. She recalculated her gifts and rediscovered her passions. She determined to find people to interact with. She scheduled Tuesdays and Thursdays to call on the sick and those needing attention. When she transferred self-concentration to others she began to heal.

When our life-purpose is thwarted, our bodies and mind sense something is out of kilter. At any age, offering your body to God—in this life season—is imperative and reasonable. To grasp what Myles Munroe says is restorative and rejuvenating.

“God created you with a definite purpose in mind. Your existence is evidence that this generation needs something that your life contains. You are the creation that can meet God’s desired result.”

“We must ask the primary question—‘Why am I here?’—and reply with an unqualified answer—‘To be myself and to express myself fully.’” (Page 8)

Presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice,” for our discussion here, is also agreement that God’s plan is best and one we choose to adopt and engage. Whatever the process.  With the intent of renewing my mind and managing disruptive, destructive negative emotions.

©2022 D. Dean Benton