Monday, August 31, 2009

Eliminating Toxic Thoughts

Some thoughts can be just as toxic to the spirit as poison is to the body. Although we would never drink poison, some of us ingest poisonous thoughts that can injure the spirit and the soul. Negative thoughts can also damage us physically. Toxic thoughts send destructive hormones and chemicals into our bodies that increase our blood pressure, damage our hearts, and lower our immune systems.

Here are some toxic thoughts that we need to eliminate:

I hate/despise/abhor someone because ______________________.
I hate/despise/abhor myself because _______________________.
I’m not smart/strong/old/young/experienced/capable/pretty/handsome enough.
I can never forgive myself for ____________.
I can never forgive someone for ________________.
I will never be good enough to ___________________.
I can never be forgiven for ______________________.
I hate /reject/distrust God because _______________________.
I will always be miserable/forgotten/hopeless because ____________________.
I can never be loved/ valued /respected because ______________________.
No one cares about/loves/respects me.
If ____________________ doesn’t _______________, I can’t be happy.
If _______________ does ______________________, I can’t be happy.

These thoughts can be deadly. If we rehearse them constantly in our minds throughout each day, they can be an toxic as if we drank a cup of drain cleaner or acid. They can eat away our feelings of self-worth, love for life, and love for others. They can destroy our relationships, our health, and our spirits.

So how do we eliminate these toxic thoughts from our lives?

First, we need to listen to what we are thinking. What kind of chatter are we allowing to reoccur in our minds? Are we rehearsing any of these thoughts—or any ones like them—over and over again in our minds?

Next, when you catch yourself thinking a toxic thought, replace it with a healing one. For example, instead of thinking “I will never be good enough,” you can think “I am beautiful and perfect just the way I am.” Instead of thinking “I can never be loved,” you can remember that you are infinitely loved, valued, and cherished by God, who loves you more than you can begin to imagine.

Here are some powerful thoughts that destroy toxic thoughts:

I love others unconditionally because God loves me unconditionally.
I love myself perfectly because God loves me perfectly.
I am smart, strong and well-qualified to perform my mission on earth.
I can forgive myself for being human because God has forgiven me.
I can forgive others, even my enemies, because God will give me the power to forgive.
I am exceptional, amazing, and capable of meeting any challenge that is God’s will for me.
I love God with all of my heart, might, mind and strength and know He is the source of all that is good.
I am filled with hope, peace, and joy because I know that I am a child of God.
My life has meaning, purpose, and beauty.
I attract people who love and respect me.
I choose happiness by the thoughts I think and the choices I make.
I will not allow my happiness to be destroyed by the choices of others.

Meditation is helpful in quieting our minds and giving us the power to control toxic thoughts. It is helpful to take a moment or two in the morning and throughout the day to breathe deeply and to reflect on something beautiful, even if it is a memory of a place you have seen or visited.
Sometimes we need the help of a Higher Power to eliminate toxic thoughts from our minds. If we find ourselves stuck in negativity, we can ask God to help us, and He will. We can also commit to memory some powerful scriptures or thoughts to use when we find ourselves attacked by toxic thoughts. Here are a few: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.” “I am beautifully and wonderfully made. I am a child of the Most High God.”

Here are some meditations that help us eliminate toxic thoughts: “Every day in every way I am getting better and better.” “God is using me as a force for good in the world.” “I accept others as they I. I am in control of my mind, and I choose to think positively.” “I love myself, and others love me. God has a great work for me to do. He will guide and direct my thoughts this day.”

Just as we go to gyms to train our muscles to build physical strength, we need to train our thoughts to build psychological and spiritual strength. When we harness our thoughts by replacing positive thoughts with toxic ones, we tap into the incomprehensible power of our spirit. We become whole.
How do you eliminate toxic thoughts?
Are there any positive meditations that have helped you?

© Carol Brown

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Radical Compassion

Christ practiced radical compassion. He ministered to the poor, the sinner, the suffering with a pure and perfect love. He cared for the sick, the despised, the sorrowing. He wept when his friends mourned, knowing that he would raise the dying brother of Mary and Martha within moments.

Today there is much that divides us. Culture, class, race, religion, country, politics, age, personality, outward appearance—there are thousands of ways we can misjudge others and turn away from those in need. It is sometimes easy to misjudge others and more challenging to look beyond labels and outward appearances.

Stephen Covey shows this picture and asks his audiences what they see. What do you see?

Do you see the young woman or the old woman? Can you see them both?

Ask yourself: Can we see the child of God in everyone I meet? Do I focus on the strengths or the weaknesses in others? Can I celebrate the immense potential in myself and others? Am I slow to criticize and quick to commend?

A wise teacher showed a group a rose bush that he had pulled from the ground. "What do you see?" he asked. One man replied, "I see dirt clinging to the roots of the plant." The teacher pulled the dirt-filled roots from the plant and handed it to the man. Another woman said, "I see large thorns that can hurt me." The teacher plucked the thorns from the plant and handed them to the woman. Then, a youth said, "I see a beautiful flower," and the teacher presented the youth with the exquisite rose.

As we look beyond the thorns and dirty roots, we can enjoy the roses. As we look beyond outward appearances, we can see the infinite potential and beauty in each person we meet. When we seek to love others as God loves us, we practice radical compassion and we become powerful forces for good in the world.

© Carol Brown

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dejunking Your Life

I love to watch shows where organizers help families dejunk their homes. It's fun to see professionals help their clients decide which of their possessions they should keep, donate, or discard. How healing it would be if we extended this process to our daily lives.

Which of our activities need to be kept? Which of our actions and thoughts empower us and help us to enjoy everyday life? What activities bring you joy and help you fulfill your life's purpose?

Which of our activities need to be donated? Could we give up some activities and replace them with those that truly enhances our lives? Is there something we can do to better nurture ourselves and those we love? Do we need to give myself permission to relax and have more fun?

What activities can we discard? Is there some clutter in our mind or life that is keeping us from enjoying our lives? Are there some activities that we need to say "no"to? Can we turn off the cell phone, computer, or cd player for a while so we can better hear the still small voice of the Spirit? Are some negative thoughts keeping us from enjoying everyday living? If so, which ones can we discard today?

Confucius said, "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." As we simplify our lives, we have more time and energy to spend with people with love doing things we enjoy. Time spent communing with God, meditating or journaling, or enjoying the beauties of nature is invaluable but costs nothing. As we remove the clutter from our lives, we find that we feel happier and more peaceful.

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Lord Is My Shepherd

King David understood the power of God's love for us. He described the Lord as a shepherd, a loving caretaker of sheep, one who cared so deeply for his sheep that he would give his life for them.

David said, "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want." David knew that when we trust completely in our Savior, his perfect love calms all of our fears. The Good Shepherd knows us by name, and he is constantly watching over us.

David said, "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." Can you imagine the Savior tenderly leading you to verdent pastures where you can rest from all your cares and worries? Can you see him guiding you to to living waters, where you drink and never thirst again? Can you feel him restore your soul with his healing touch?

Now, there will come times of trial in our lives. Some day we will will walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but David reminds us we need not fear if we trust in God, for his rod and staff will comfort and protect us. Shepherds use their rods to protect and discipline their sheep, to drive away predators and to direct them away from danger. Staffs are long, slender sticks often with a hook at the end which shepherds use to draw their sheep to them or to guide them along a difficult path. Can you picture Jesus leading you along your journey, guiding and protecting you as your walk along trecherous paths? Can you feel his loving arms encircling you in your times of despair and darkness?

David said that Jesus will prepare a feast for us in the presence of our enemies. He promised that our Savior will anoint our heads with oil just as a shepherd binds up the wounds of his sheep with healing balm. "Peace, peace, to those far and near," says the LORD. "And I will heal them."

Oh, how we can rejoice! Jesus has overcome sin and death. He is the Light and the Life of the world. Our cups overflow with these blessings. With David, we can proclaim that "surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."

© Carol Brown

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Seeing Jesus in Everyone

The more I learn about Jesus, the more I catch myself in my thinking. I realize that when I judge or reject another, I am rejecting Jesus. As I love and respect another, I am honoring Jesus.

Can we see beyond our weaknesses to see the Divine inside ourselves? Can we look beyond the outward appearance of another to see Jesus? Can we look at the elderly, the sick, and the despised as though they were Christ himself?

Mother Teresa said, "I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene...I serve because I love Jesus."

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus describes the day when He will return and will separate the people of the earth as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. He says to those who loved and served others, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Mother Teresa said, “I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper's wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?”

We see our lives not as a sacrifice but as a sacrament when we see Jesus in those we serve. In our culture, I would suggest that "the least of these" often include those who are poor, disabled, sick, or rejected. The Savior ministered to people whom many despised. He loved everyone--especially those in great need--but spoke harshly against those who were prideful and conceited.

When we assist those who are poor or sick, we are serving Jesus. When we visit one who suffers with a disabling mental illness, we visit Jesus. When we minister to the dying, we minister to Jesus. Our lives are profoundly changed—and blessed—when we see Jesus in everyone—especially those who are not always easy to love.

As we remember that every person is a beloved child of God, it becomes easier to love others. As we realize that we are all a part of one great family, we are no longer strangers. We no longer view people as rich and poor, black and white, worthy and unworthy but as magnificent creations of God. We feel a sense of inter-connectedness and interdependence. Mother Teresa said,” If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

© Carol Brown

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Enjoy the Journey

This has been a magical summer. I’ve savored the beauty of each flower, blue sky, and shrub. Why? Because last summer I had major knee surgery and spent the summer months in excruciating pain. I didn’t get out much, and when I did, it was usually to my physical therapist’s office. Because of complications from knee surgery, I spent most of the summer on my bed with my knee elevated and iced. Oh, how I missed the beauty of nature then, and, oh, how I’m enjoying it now!

This summer I celebrate every flower and plant I see. I am ecstatic when I drive to the bank and see the petunias, marigolds, and tiger lilies that adorn the entrance. I am enthralled when I drive by neighbors’ yards and see roses, poppies, and sunflowers lighting up the world.

When my father was battling cancer, he was euphoric when the crocuses, daffodils, and tulips appeared. We did not realize that would be our last spring together as we celebrated the awakening of new life, but I when I see spring flowers appear, I remember my dad.

When my mom was dying, the leaves were falling from the trees. She pointed towards a majestic mountain and said, “Some day I’ll be climbing that,”and I know she has. As I spent the days with her that fall, I watching the beautiful autumn leaves and wondered if they would all fall from our tree before mom passed away. They did, and mom left soon after. Since autumn was her favorite season, whenever I see the gorgeous array of leaves, I remember her courage and her strength through adversity.

I’m away from home right now, and I’m enchanted by the desert landscapes, the flowering shrubs, and the swaying palms. It’s been a great week! I’m headed home tonight, and I will appreciate even more the green grass, pines, and the majestic mountain landscapes that are part of my world.

Imagine today if this were your last day to see—or walk—or live. What would you appreciate more? What things would annoy you less?

I love Liv’s blog “One Year of Beauty.” Liv finds such beauty on the commonplace and the ordinary, and with her keen eye, makes the everyday things around us appear extraordinary. Thanks, Liv, for helping me to better celebrate life.

Today, enjoy the journey. Savor the beauty around you. (And don’t sweat the small stuff—it really isn’t worth the energy.)

© Carol Brown

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Comfort of Jesus

What are your sorrows? Here are a few of mine:

• watching your husband lose his job days before your first child is born
• seeing your father die of cancer when you are a teen
• caring for a sick child for eight years
• • caring for a mother who can no longer see or walk before she dies
• having a few trusted family members and friends betray you
• being chronically ill through childhood and into early adult years
• experiencing years of poverty
• caring for a relative who suffers with bipolar schizoid-affective disorder
• watching a child turn away from God and God's love
• dealing with other trials so painful to write about

Other sorrows might include:

• a spouse’s rejection
• unwanted singleness
• infertility
• infidelity
• paralysis
• chronic pain
• caring for a dying spouse or child
• a learning disability
• caring for a disabled child
• dementia
• an embarrassing failure
• suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
• enduring criticism and ridicule from a boss, a spouse, a family member
• an outgoing conflict
• persistent panic
• awful Post-partum depression
• addiction
• ongoing loneliness
• fear over finances
• being imprisoned legally or by fear, sin, or discouragement
• living where you cannot worship or speak as you wish
• burying a child
• becoming a widow or widower
• experiencing grief and sorrow
• losing everything you own
• suffering with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, OCD, or bipolar disorder
• torture, genocide, starvation; sexual, physical abuse, or psychological abuse

I never expected life to be this difficult, but I have discovered that life is hard—very hard—for most people. And, if it isn’t now, it may become really challenging, especially when we face end of life issues. Suffering has taught me to be less judgmental of others. It has also taught me to love the Lord in ways I would never have experienced otherwise.

Jesus knows our pain. He has already suffered every grief, sorrow, hurt, or loss that we will ever know—and much, much more. He described himself as a man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief.

The night he was arrested, our Savior went to the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked Peter and the two sons of Zebedee to wait for him while he prayed. The scriptures tell us that he began to be sorrowful and troubled, and he said to his three disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Luke writes that Jesus’ perspiration became like “great drops of blood” as he suffered for our sins, sorrows, and pain. We cannot comprehend this depth of suffering, but we know that He suffered because He loved us. He told us, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

You may not understand my suffering, and I may not understand yours, but Christ understanding everyone’s suffering. He has already experienced it. What comfort that gives us! We are never alone!

Paul says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed...Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Paul knew a lot of suffering, yet he found peace because he fixes his eyes on Jesus and on the eternal glory that awaited him. As our eyes become single to God and to his glory, we discover that Christ will carry us through the good times and the bad. He loves and understands us! Isn’t that the best news ever!

© Carol Brown

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Worshiping our Fears

Before my knee quit working well, I walked daily with a good friend. Although our religious beliefs are very different, we share a great love for the Lord. One day she commented, "I think when we hang on to thoughts of fear, worry, or bitterness, those thoughts can become false idols, even gods to us."

I've thought about her comment a lot. When I focus on critical, angry thoughts, I find that I no longer adore and revere God as I do when I'm peaceful and patient. I realize that I've spent way too much time trying to control things I can't control--like other people's choices--and not trying to control things I can control--like the thoughts I hold onto. Oh, how I wish I'd understood this truth years ago. My life would have been so much more peaceful!

This past year has been a tough one for me. Some of my loved ones have made choices that have shocked and disappointed me. Other sorrows are too difficult to discuss in a blog setting. But, one thing I know for sure is that God loves His children--including me--more than I can begin to comprehend. That has brought me unspeakable comfort.

I praise God that He loves me when when I falter, stumble, and struggle. I'm grateful that He loves me when I'm weak and when I'm strong. Sometimes I feel quite vulnerable, but God continues to nurture and care for me even when I feel unworthy of His love.

Today in Church a speaker referred to these awesome comments by Paul: "Therefore, brothers (and sisters), in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. ...May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones."

Those words spoke to my soul. I felt a greater desire to try to love others as God loves me. I wanted to stand firm in the Lord. I wanted God to strengthen my heart so that I may one day stand blameless and holy before Him.

Now, I realize I'm far from perfect, but I also know that God's grace is sufficient to make up the difference for all of my fears, failures, and mistakes. To anyone who is reading this who may feel less than whole, please know that you are a divine child of God. As we focus our loving thoughts on our Creator, we block out those negative thoughts that destroy our peace. May you feel the Lord's love for you today, and may His love carry you through the difficulties and disappointments of life.

© Carol Brown

Friday, August 14, 2009


Someone wrote:

Look back and thank God.

Look forward and trust God.

Look around and serve God.

Look within and find God.

Paul Galanti, POW survivor of Hanoi Hilton in Viet Nam, who suffered unspeakable torture, said: "If you wake up in the morning and the door has a handle on it that you can open, that's a good day."

Conscious Living

When we savor the present moment, we find peace. As we express gratitude for the past and trust that God for future, we can enjoy the journey. As children of God, we have the power to live happily even when we are experiencing trials. Remember Christ’s amazing promise, “These things I have spoken to you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye will have tribulation, but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world.

For years I lived unconsciously. I brooded about past problems and worried about future ones (most of which never happened.) I was anxious and depressed a lot of the time because I wasn’t allowing myself to enjoy present happiness. Now, I’m not blaming myself. I did not know about the power of conscious living, but I do now, and my life is so much better.

Since I tend to be an over-achiever, in the past I took on way too many projects. I wanted to be the perfect wife, mother, daughter, homemaker, teacher, and volunteer and wore myself out trying to do everything perfectly. Today I try to be good rather than perfect—it’s such a big difference. I focus on loving relationships, which begins with loving myself. Some put themselves last on their to-do lists, yet if we aren’t nurturing and loving ourselves, we may lack the energy to love thers well.

Gay Hendricks in his book Conscious Living says we must answer two questions if we are to make the most of our gift of life: How do I live at peace with myself? And, how do I live in harmony with people around me? I’ve just started reading the book so I don’t know his conclusions, but know that living in peace with ourselves and in harmony with others creates personal power. God uses us in amazing ways when we align ourselves with His Spirit and His love.

Last week my friend who is on our city council asked me to speak at a large meeting in behalf of the children and taxpayers in our community. I did a lot of research and signed up to speak at the Truth in Taxation meeting. Since over two hundred people signed up to speak, I assumed my comments would go unnoticed. Not so! I appeared on the news, radio, Internet, and newspaper for days. My picture and words were all over the place. My friends say they heard my comments over and over on television and radio news reports for several days.

Now, I’m just an ordinary woman, but I was speaking up for children, teachers, parents, those on fixed incomes, and those who have lost jobs or are underemployed. Our school board was proposing a 40% tax increase, and I discovered that most of the money was going to a bloated bureaucracy. I spoke up respectfully but firmly, and people listened.

When we live in the present moment, God can use us to help others in the most unexpected ways. I care deeply about children and the poor, and God used me to speak up for both that night. The tax increase has been cut in half, and although that is still too high, my friends have thanked me for speaking up for them, and I am amazed that such a small speech made such a big difference.

As children of God, each of us can do great things by small acts of kindness and service. When we live in the present moment, we become instruments of peace and love, and God uses us to bless others. Conscious living allows us to make the most of our gift of life, to savor the moment, and to serve others well. It allows us to be still, and know that God loves us, that He is in control of the universe, and that He will make weak things become strong as we trust in Him.

© Carol Brown

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Laughter Is Really Good Medicine

Most of us could probably laugh a little more. Childlike laughter (not the mean, raucous kind) is good for us medically, psychologically, and spiritually. Scientists have shown it can help to cure disease, depression, and discouragement.

I plead guilty. I don't laugh nearly enough, but I am laughing more. I find children are natural comedians. Spend time with children and either their antics or their innocent comments will lighten your heart. Last week I asked my grandson what his favorite summer memory was, and he said, "Spending time with you, Grandma." Now, He's done a lot of really fun things this summer, and I expected him to say that his fun camping trip with his family was his favorite memory. Duncan and I have enjoyed simple things like feeding ducks, playing board games, looking at clouds, watching game shows, sharing secrets, and even weeding. We've laughed a lot together and perhaps that's why we've had SO much fun.

I love watching our new granddaughter, Chloe. She's a hoot! She squeals with delight when we play peek-a-boo with her, when we nuzzle her neck, or kiss her cheeks. Oh, how she enjoys life and makes us laugh.

My friend Diane always makes me laugh. Now, her husband, Ford, is fighting cancer big-time, but we never spend time together where we don't end up laughing about something like crazy hospital mix-ups or awful chemo reactions. We can choose to laugh or cry about things, and although we do some of both, we usually end up laughing in the end. (I posted about them earlier; it's the April 24th post.)

Liv, in her awesome blog A Year of Beauty just wrote:

When was the last time
you looked in a mirror
and nearly burst with excitement
at the sight of your own reflection?
Probably when you were little.

I love watching my kids
stare into a mirror,
always fascinated and delighted
to see themselves smiling back.
Their eyes sparkle,
their bodies bounce with joy,
their beautiful spirits shine through.

But when grown-ups look in the mirror
we immediately notice what's wrong,
conditioned to focus on what's flawed
versus what's fabulous.
Wouldn't you love
to sparkle and shine again?
Challenge yourself to fall back in love
with your reflection.

Start simple:
smile at yourself
before walking away from any mirror.
Give yourself a big toothy grin!

Then, work your way up to
sustaining that pose,
thinking only good thoughts about
that beaming, happy face of yours,
for a full five seconds.
Sounds short,
but it feels like an eternity
if you're used to only finding flaws.

When you've got five seconds mastered,
look yourself in the eyes
and recite a short and sweet affirmation
like these:

I am beautiful and the whole world sees it!

I feel good about who I am and how I look!

I am happy, healthy and love being me!

Yep, I know it sounds totally cheesy.
But what do you have to lose?
If you take this challenge seriously,
I am willing to bet
you'll start to notice a difference
in how you see yourself,
how you treat yourself,
and how others treat you.

Loving what you see in the mirror
isn't childish or conceited;
it's required if you want to become
the best and brightest you possible.
You look maaah-velous.
Believe it!

Thanks, Liv. (I'd send you a link to her post, but I can't figure out how to do it. Sorry! I'm still a novice blogger.)

Today, find ways to lighten up and laugh a little. Yesterday, because I'm on the terrorist list (yeah, that's right, I'm one scary dude), I was held up in security for 45 minutes at the airport and almost missed my flight. It didn't seem too funny at the time, but right now I think it's hilarious. I must look like one dangerous grandma!

© Carol Brown

The Secrets to a Happy Life

There are many self-help books, talk shows, and magazine articles that tell us how to find happiness. Some are helpful. Some are not. Some say if we get nipped and tucked, have a complete make-over, win the lottery, or make our first million dollars, we will be happy. Some say that if we indulge ourselves, buy more stuff, and seek immediate gratification for our personal desires, we’ll be happy.

The best self-help book written shows us the secret to happiness. It explains it simply and beautifully. It says: “…anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

How do we lose our lives for Christ’s sake? We love Him. We serve others. We seek to walk in His footsteps. We yoke ourselves with our Savior, so that He can help us carry our burdens of pain, sorrow, or suffering. God does not ask us to carry our crosses alone. He waits to help us.
One of the heaviest crosses that we can bear is feeling unworthy of God’s love or of the love of others. Remind yourself each day that you are beautifully and wonderfully made, that you are a child of God created in His image. Remember that He loves you infinitely and that you have infinite potential. You are loved!

As we seek to lose our lives for Christ’ sake, He will help us accomplish miracles. When I try to give my life to Him, He gives me power to do things that I could not naturally do. I can now speak comfortably before hundreds of people, trusting that God will give me the right words to say. Because I have given my life to God, He has used me in countless unexpected and wonderful ways.

I am a simple person with many weaknesses, but God has used my strengths as I serve others and has turned some of my weaknesses into strengths. I’m still learning and still growing, but I know I’m most happy when I lose my life it serving others. That is pure bliss!

Losing our life for Christ does not have to be difficult. Last week I took some fresh cherries to some shut-ins. They were thrilled! They hugged me, thanked me, and then called to thank me again a few days later. I expected nothing for my service, but was blessed with pure happiness for such a simple act.

Now, I’m not saying to become a martyr or a slave to other’s demands. We need to love ourselves as much as we love others, and we need to take good care of ourselves. And, we need to be grateful. Remember the words of the hymn:

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

In the Psalms, we read, “…happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.” ““Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God.” “Whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he.”

Gratitude, service, and love promote peace and happiness. A prayer of thanksgiving, an act of service, remembering God’s love for us—these simple acts can produce profound results. They are the secrets to a happy life.

© Carol Brown

Monday, August 10, 2009

Radical Compassion

Christ practiced radical compassion. He ministered to the poor, the sinner, the suffering with a pure and perfect love. He cared for the sick, the despised, the sorrowing. He wept when his friends mourned, knowing that he would raise the dying brother of Mary and Martha within moments.

Today there is much that divides us. Culture, class, race, religion, country, politics, age, personality, outward appearance—there are thousands of ways we can misjudge others and turn away from those in need. It is so easy to misjudge others and so hard to look beyond labels and outward appearances.

Stephen Covey shows this picture and asks his audiences what they see. What do you see?

Do you see the young woman or the old woman? Can you see them both?

Perhaps we can ask ourselves: Can we see the child of God in everyone we meet? Do we look for the strengths or the weaknesses in others? Can we celebrate the immense potential in ourselves and others? Can we be slower to criticize and quicker to commend?

A wise teacher showed a group a rose bush that he had pulled from the ground. "What do you see?" he asked. One man replied, "I see dirt clinging to the roots of the plant." The teacher pulled the dirt-filled roots from the plant and handed it to the man. Another woman said, "I see large thorns that can hurt me." The teacher plucked the thorns from the plant and handed them to the woman. Then, a youth said, "I see a beautiful flower," and the teacher presented the youth with the exquisite rose.

As we look beyond the thorns and dirty roots, we can enjoy the roses. As we seek to beyond outward appearance, we can see the infinite potential of others. When we seek to love others as God loves us, we practice radical compassion and we become powerful forces for good in the world.

© Carol Brown

Counting Blessings

I read about someone who celebrates his birthday by writing down the number of blessings for each year of his life. We don't need to wait for our birthdays to write down specific things we appreciate. A daily dose of gratitude is good for anyone.

It's not my birthday, but here goes:

air conditioning
my awesome husband
freedom of speech
my amazing grandchildren
good vision
fresh cherries
comments on my blog
phone calls from friends today
my four precious children and their wonderful spouses
hot showers
freedom of religion
green grass
hair dye
the public library
cumulus clouds
the Bible
good books
air freshener
the love of God
good neighbors
mountain views
my laptop computer
clean sheets
homemade soup
sincere complements
a good roof
the smell of lilacs, roses, or lilies
a slice of warm homemade bread
kind words
mountains meadows
invitations to lunch
memories of Maui
fireworks on the Fourth of July
my mom (who passed away 10 years ago)
my dad (who died 42 years ago)
thank you notes
inspirational hymns
fresh air
summer storms
roasting marshmallows over a campfire
ocean breezes
newborn babies
the laughter of a child
anonymous service
every one of you who reads this blog
my extended family
the comfort of faith in Jesus Christ
the power of hope
the joy of pure love

What a list for someone who is turning 29 (again)this year!

What are some of your favorite things?

© Carol Brown

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hold on to Hope

Hope is a powerful thing. It strengthens us when we feel weak, it cheers us when we are sad, and it dispels dispair and discouragement. As we place our hope in God--that we can live with Him forever if we follow Him--we find strength to endure great trials and daily challenges.

David said this about hope:

Show me your ways, O LORD,teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.

May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.

Isaiah understood hope. He said, "....but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

So what is hope? It is confident expectation that God lives and loves us, that we are His children, and that we can live with Him forever. It is the belief that God keeps all of His promises, that we will be resurrected, and that we can live forever with Him if we give our hearts to Him. It means that we know that God has immeasurable blessings waiting for those who love and obey Him. Hope gives us peace and comfort, for those who are filled with hope are filled with the Spirit.

Paul says that hope is an "anchor to the soul." He challenges us to "hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."

Hope promises that one day we will see Jesus face to face and that He will hold us in His loving arms. Hope motivates us to prepare for the time when God will return to rule and reign on the earth. Hope is trusting that some day God will wipe away all of our tears.

I have seen hope strengthen people through years of unspeakable suffering and sorrow. I have watched hope carry believers through loss, persecution, difficulty, and grief. I have witnessed hope lift my father through his valiant fight with cancer. I saw hope comfort my mother when she could no longer walk and see. I have seen hope carry parents through the grief of burying a child. I have seen hope in the eyes of the dying, who knew that they were returning to their merciful, all-loving Redeemer.

With Paul, I pray that "the God of hope [will] fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

© Carol Brown

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Joy of Giving

When we give willingly, we receive abundantly. That is a universal law. When we clutch onto our possesions, we are not open to accept bountiful blessings.

I know many who share generously with others, and they never lack. I know others who hold onto to all they have, and they feel emptiness. "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it," we read.

I have always tithed, even when living on minimum wage. As I have given to God, He has always been blessed me spiritually and temporally. I've been able to pay my bills when it appeared I could not. I know that God blesses those who love and honor Him.

Shortly after we were married, our Church leader asked my husband and I to give everything we had (which was our $500 savings) to a worthy cause. We did. God poured out blessings on us from that moment on, and we experienced the joy of giving all we had to the Lord. Although we've known financial struggles and good times, we've always been blessed.

I have several friends who live on meager incomes that still give generously to others. They are so happy! I have others who hold tightly to everything that have. They are miserable!

I give carefully. I will not give money to an alcohol to buy booze or to drug addict to buy drugs. I won't give money to an organization where much of the money is spent in administrative overhead. I like to give money to our local food bank, to Kiva, an organization that gives microloans which are repaid (to me), and to the Salvation Army. I like to give to our church's humanitarian projects, in which all the money goes to those who truly need it.

Anne Frank wrote, "No one has ever become poor by giving." I would add, by giving wisely.

What organizations do you like to support? How has giving blessed your life?

© Carol Brown

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Who Is Your Hero?

Media promotes rock , movies, and sports stars as modern-day heroes. News reporters celebrate popular politicians, billionaires, and powerful businessmen. I would suggest that although there are good people everywhere, the greatest hero of all is Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.

Do we consider Him our greatest hero? Do we teach our children to make Him their hero? Do we find pictures of Him on our walls? Do we honor, revere, love, and cherish Him? Is He the center of our affections, admiration, and adulation?

A few years ago my husband and I went out to dinner with some friends. They were a charming couple—a doctor and his beautiful wife—and the man said he loved His wife more than anything or anyone, more than God. A few years later, he had affair and their marriage was unraveling.

When God is our greatest love, everything else in our lives falls into place. We can overcome fear with love. We can find courage to meet the challenges of living. We can find peace amid sorrow.

© Carol Brown