Wood, Stone, and Fire: Beauty, Brawn, and Blazes – Reflections of Worship

“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” Exodus 25:8-9

As we study Exodus chapter 25 through 30, we see that God is the Master Planner. In this case, God gives Israel the exact specifications to build the Temple where He will “dwell” among his people  The incredible part of this documentation is that it took place 2000 years prior to the birth of Jesus and each element and requirement laid forth by God, points perfectly to His ultimate sacrifice.  Whether you believe, or not, that Jesus truly lived and died for you – will you read Exodus 25-30 along with 1 Chronicles 21:24; Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 8:2; Matthew 1:23; John 1:14; Ephesians 2:19-22.  This reading could change your life. Forever.

The Tabernacle prepared for God’s presence. He provided the stone, the fire, the wood, and the precious gems to make this Tabernacle beautiful and worthy of His presence among his people.

Fireplace 2014

I am so thankful today for the joy I have gazing at the beauty of God’s creation.

I have an unusual love for stones [BEAUTY]. I delight in the colors, shapes, and original designs of nearly every stone I spy. It is a common sight to see me stopping on a walk to bend down and collect yet another rock from the dirt path.

God is the Master Planner and the Master Provider of all the materials and the skilled craftsman of the original Temple.  As I consider this,  I am especially grateful at the place I find myself worshipping God in my home. Here at the foot of my beautifully crafted split stone wall; the work [BRAWN] of my skilled and artistic brother-in-law; and near the warm wood fire, installed by the hardworking hands of my husband, who also laid the slate hearth and chops the wood for us. This place combines many things that are precious to me.  It is a reminder of God’s Master Design in Creation (stone, wood, fire) and God’s provision of family, love, and the warmth of fire [BLAZES].  As we seek Him and worship Him we know that He will show us the perfect plan for our day and give us wisdom (Daniel 2:21, James 1:5) for decisions that affect our future.

And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD. Ezekiel 16:14 NIV [BEAUTY]

The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed. Psalm 28:8 KJV [BRAWN]

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105 NLT [BLAZES]

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Wise Wednesday: Which Comes 1st: Cluttered Mind or Cluttered Matter?

organized and free flowing brainDo I tackle the clutter around me or inside me first?

I participated in a wonderful How to Make HUGE Projects Feel Easy Webinar today put on by April at Power of Moms dot com. She does a nice job of implementing the tools from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  She has created a niche for helping Moms to get organized using Allen’s GTD method.  She has a beautiful website with many visuals, podcasts and videos to help Moms to get organized and reclaim time to spend on family!  I love her aim and from what I have seen so far, I love her material.

It sparked my thinking, of course, about our minds and organization.  I stumbled upon an article on CNN.com featuring Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life.” by Margaret Moore.  She is the director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital and the founder and CEO of Wellcoaches Corporation and Harvard psychiatrist Paul Hammerness.  Their theory is that one must first organize the mind prior to organizing the environment in order to see lasting change.

Personally, I believe it is very important to have an organized mind (that is why I teach Mind Mapping! And perhaps why David Allen includes a map on page 71 of Getting Things Done), but I also know from experience that an unorganized environment can cause your brain to be so overwhelmed it becomes cluttered.  When your mind is overwhelmed, it becomes stressed which causes it to freeze, so that you are not able to even begin a project. That is, unless you have a reasonable and incremental process to begin, as April puts it your “next step”.  In other words, focusing on ONE step at a time versus being in ‘overwhelm’ mode by looking at ALL of your To Do’s at one moment.

Check out the wealth of resources on David and April’s sites:

http://gettingthingsdone.com/ — David Allen

http://powerofmoms.com/  — April Perry

Now to you — what do you believe comes first?  Cluttered mind or cluttered environment?  I look forward to your comments!  And then we should all get busy uncluttering both our minds and our matter so that we are better equipped to have more time to enjoy our family and friends during this upcoming Holiday Seasons!  

Wise Wednesday Brain Byte: Non-Conscious Mind

Research shows that 90 percent of what takes place in your mind is metacognitive, or at your sub-conscious level.  This leaves only ten percent of conscious activity of the mind.

 brain scan

According to Neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf, the non-conscious metacognitive level is where your unique metacognitive mix comes in, giving your individuality.  This is where memory building and all its electrochemical and electomagnetic reactions actually occur.

Dr. Leaf goes on to say, “your individuality implies and carries with it the taking of responsibility for your actions; you must consciously force the metacognitive and cognitive levels to interact.  You can do this by consciously thinking about what is in your mind which allows you literally to access the psychosomatic (body-mind) network where the memories are stored and redirect it.

She gives an example of detoxing your old, negative memories by recalling them and then creating a new positive thought pattern (memories) ‘over’ the old. This is Detox Step #4 – Take Responsibility and Take Control – in her book Who Switched Off My Brain.

In other words, think of an unhealthy habit: this brings it to your conscious mind.  Next, think upon a new and WISER choice; take action based on what you believe to be right, using God’s Word as your guide. What does God say about this unhealthy habit and what thinking should replace it?  You may need the help of a trained Counselor, prayer partner, Pastor, or trustworthy friend – all depending on the depth and destruction of the negative thought pattern.

“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. (‭I Chronicles‬ ‭28‬:‭9‬ NKJV)

 

Wise Wednesday Brain Byte: Coffee or Nap?

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Knowing the answer, yet exhausted and hoping for a quick fix, I posed the question anyhow:  Shall I make a pot of coffee and suffer the consequences of staying up too late tonight and suffering fatigue AGAIN tomorrow; or should I take a nap?

A study published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research evaluated the performance of 3 groups of people:

1) Those who took naps from 1 to 3 pm

2) Those that got the caffeine equivalent of 2 cups of coffee at 3 pm

3) Those who took a placebo pill

The caffeinated group thought themselves the least sleepy, but the facts show that they performed the same as the placebo group, or worse, on several cognitive tests.

The group of nappers did the best, outscoring the other two groups significantly on the sensory and verbal tests.

To caffeinate or to close the eye?  When in doubt, nap it out. 

Brain Byte: Improve Attention and Focus

Magnifying Glass

Attention to detail is not always easy, but there are tools to help us.

We all get distracted at times, especially when we have many activities in the hopper at one time.  Some events we are responsible for and some we are obligated to participate in, but they all require some amount of attention.  The busy times in our lives can impact the quality of our attention and focus.  Other factors that impact our focus can include our physical state: hormonal imbalances, too much or too little sleep, and stress.

The good news is that in spite of environmental or physical variables, we have the power to have improve our attention and focus.  But, we must take action!

Smart Strategies to Improve Attention and Focus

Make Notes – Writing forces you to pay attention; helps move information from short-term to long-term memory; and you have a record if you need it later.

Control Distractions – Take charge of controllable distractions around you.  Turn off the TV/Radio, manage the temperature so that you are not too cold or too warm, if you are hungry then eat.

Quiet Time – If it is too noisy or too busy where you are attempting to concentrate, then move!  Find a library nearby that you can count on for your focus time.  Perhaps you have a spot in your yard that you can designate as your focus space. You may consider purchasing noise-reducing headphones for your workstation.

Voice record your notes – you may use your smartphone to record notes when you are in a hurry.  If you don’t have a smartphone there are mini-recorders available at low-cost, some made specifically for your key chain.  You may especially consider voice recording important information such as advice from your doctor or imperative projects.  When you are under stress there is greater chance you will forget information left to your memory alone.

Brain Byte: Beware of Brain Shrinkers

colorful brain clipart

You have many things on your mind like paying the bills, yard work, kids, pets, the “To Do” list.  So I ask is your mind on your mind?  How often do you consciously tend to your brain’s health?  Have you ever experienced brain freeze?  That awkward moment when you cannot think of your friend’s name as you pass in the grocery or all of the sudden the PIN you have used a thousand times, just will not come to mind!

The brain is a living, breathing organ.  In fact, it utilizes a large portion of the body’s oxygen intake, about twenty percent.  Your brain’s thinking process involves brain cells sending and receiving information.  The Axon sends information and the Dendrites receive information.  When you do not take care of yourself properly you can actually kill off brain cells.  The following should be avoided to optimize your brain’s health.

Brain Shrinkers

  • Binge drinking
  • Cigarettes
  • Prolonged State of Fear/Sustained stress
  • Lack of water
  • Mental Laziness: getting stuck in a rut, never trying anything new and doing everything the same way. The brain is in constant cleanup mode and allows unused neurons to die and prunes underutilized dendrites, just as a gardener prunes dying branches on a tree.
  • BMI (Body Mass Index) over 25.  That’s because extra fat generates more chemicals that can be toxic to your brain, says Deborah Gustafson, Ph.D., the lead study author and assistant professor at the Institute of Clinical Neuroscience in Sweden. One class of these chemicals — called free radicals — latches on to cells, disrupts the way they function, and can kill them. Aging naturally works away at your memory, but excess fat may speed up the process. For each point your BMI increases, your risk increases 12 to 16 percent. “If you decrease your body weight, you’re going to slow potential atrophy,” says Dr. Gustafson, who recommends a BMI below 25.
  • Lack of exercise – even as little as 30 minutes, 3 times a week is beneficial.

Brain Byte: Exercise Grows Your Brain

Exercise literally grows the brain, increasing the number of brain cells.

According to No More Brain Drain by Reader’s Digest the birth of new brain cells decreases as we age, but this trend may be reversed with regular physical exercise.

The book reports that researchers from the University of Illinois found that after 3 months of getting a few hours of aerobic exercise weekly, study subjects’ brains grew to a size equal to that of people 3 years younger.  Their number of brain cells increased dramatically, especially in the frontal lobe, where much of learning and memory making takes place.

In addition, the connections between brain cells also increased, especially in the corpus callosum, a structure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain and allows them to speak to each other, enhancing creativity and efficiency of thought.

Wise-up Wednesday: You are What you Think

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Every thought you have ever had is recorded permanently on your brain. 

The thoughts you have repeated have more of a prominent pathway, literally imprinted on your brain.  The more you think a thought the more likely it is to become a habit because it becomes the path of least resistance.

So what shapes our self-talk?

Is your self talk positive or negative?

Truth-filled or a lie?

Your brain is more likely to respond and thrive where your self-talk is positive and truthful, because your brain is success and truth seeking.

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 NIV

Are You A Rehab Addict?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARenovations 2011

I love home shows that display how to transform something old, making it look new.   The “Rehab Addict” from my home state, Nicole Curtis, buys run down homes and completely remodels them for resale.  She is a hard-working, spunky young woman.  She says, “For me, there is no halfway!  It’s always to the extreme.”

This is the mark of a perfectionist.  It is generally considered a good thing to seek the very best.  However, there can be trade-offs to going to the “extreme” when it comes to remodeling homes.  For example, the homes our Rehab Addict buys are sometimes in less desirable locations.  The first three rules in real estate are: Location, location, and location.  So, if she invests too much money in perfecting a home in a low rent district, she will lose.  She loses time and money by going to an extreme in a location that will only generate profit on the mediocre or ‘good enough.’

Recently a friend confessed, “It is all or nothing for me.  That’s just my personality. I have always been that way.”  She gave me some of examples of different things she has tried and gone to the extreme only to eventually burn out or just stop trying.  I have met many people with tendencies like this and it is always curious to me what drives them to the opposite spectrum?  What compels a person to move from one extreme to the other? And why do they stop progressing?

When it comes to our spiritual homes, does God want us to be a rehab addict?  I believe the answer is yes and no.  I mean, not in the way we generally think of doing rehabilitation.  We usually try, try, and try again to the best of our human ability to make changes and improve ourselves.  We have a tendency to forget to rely on the strength of God to help us overcome whatever “uglies” we are attempting to turn pretty.  Financial success means that Nicole has no choice but to use her brain and brawn to get those condemned houses torn apart and built back up, but why do we think we need to use our own brawn to clean up the inner dirt of our lives?  In fact, how can we do this on our own?

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; I Corinthians 6:19 NIV

Dallas Willard has written a book on a different sort of rehabilitation, it is called Renovation of the Heart, Putting on the Character of Christ.  He points out the desire most of us have to transform and the charge for Christians to become like Christ.  Willard gives examples of the reality of dilapidated spiritual houses all around us with the increase of divorce, online pornography, crimes of all kinds, and other rampant sexual seductions from the TV to the grocery store.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 HCSB

So, yes, surely God desires us to be in the habit of transforming our spiritual lives; but the only thing we should be addicted to is the first and greatest commandment: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  Following this will give us all that we need to transform from the inside out.  A whole mind-body-spirit make-over is a beautiful sight to behold and the best investment you will ever make because the return is priceless.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 ESV

Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Ezekiel 18:31a NLT

This post is dedicated to Lacey and Thais as they finish their last days on this earth with bodies that are failing them.  Each are looking forward to new life with Christ and having their bodies fully restored in such a glorious and radiant way that we can only imagine until we are there in God’s presence.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3:20-21 NIV

Wise-up Wednesday: Oh. That. Smell!

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Smell, more so than any other sense, is intimately linked to the parts of the brain that process emotion and associative learning. A smell can trigger a floodgate of memories, influence people’s moods and even affect purchases. Because the olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system, an area so closely associated with memory and feeling it is sometimes called the “emotional brain.”  Use this phenomenon to your advantage as a memory hook by creating conditioned responses.

The olfactory bulb has intimate access to the amygdala, which processes emotion, and the hippocampus, which is responsible for associative learning. However, smells only trigger memories with conditioned responses. When you first smell a new scent, you link it to an event, a person, a thing or even a moment. Your brain forges a link between the smell and a memory — associating the smell of chocolate chip cookies with Grandma Joan or particular cleaning agents to a hospital or clinic.  When you meet up with the smell again, the link is already formed on your brain and is ready to elicit a memory and/or a mood.  The cookies make you feel happy because you love Grandma Joan, the cleaning agent may remind you of the pain you were in when you went to the ER in 2004.

Oh. That. Smell!

Researchers have found that cognition significantly influences the perception of smell.  A psychologist at the University of Oxford labeled an ambiguous Brie-like scent as either “cheddar cheese” or “body odor.” Test subjects rated the odor higher when it was labeled cheddar cheese. MRIs even showed more activity in the olfactory region of the brain when subjects believed they were smelling cheese. [Scientific American]

“The human sense of smell has long been maligned — its sensitivity is often unfavorably compared to that of animals. Smell even came in dead last in a HowStuffWorks battle of favorite senses.” (1)

Memory Scents

Positive associations are best for recall.  After all, your brain much prefers a positive experience, while it may repress a negative one. So when creating a conditioned response, or memory hook, associate the event with something that smells good to you and spend a few extra seconds “smelling the roses” so to speak.  The next time you experience the same scent you will be transported to your memory hook via your conditioned response.

May your week be simply scentsational!

(1) http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/smell2.htm

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