Monday, June 28, 2010

The Peace of Nature

Hooray for summer! As we enjoy the trees, flowers, birds, rivers and streams, the beauties of nature offer us peace and joy in rich abundance. Whether we go for a walk in a park, stroll along a stream or a wildlife refuge, we experience greater serenity. This month my husband and I enjoyed nature in its glory and majesty. We visited the Grand Canyon and stared in awe at God's marvelous sculpture. As I soaked in the beauty, I remembered that masterpieces are not created overnight. God wants to mold our lives into something wonderful, but the process takes time, faith, and trust.

While we walked along a path by the canyon, we saw a flower clinging to the rocks. It reminded me that peace can be found amid challenging circumstances. As I observed that floral masterpiece, I celebrated the indominable spirit of those who choose joy and peace when bitterness and despair would be so easy.

We saw the spectacular scenery at Capitol Reef National Monument. Each of God's creations are breathtaking and magnificent. They enhance our reverence and awe for our Creator's power and artistry. As we reflect upon the beauties of the world, we can remember that we are His most precious masterpieces.

© Carol Brown

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Changing the Script

Each day about 60,000 thoughts pass through our minds. Some enhance our peace of mind and some do not. If we can view our thoughts as we would a movie or a television show, we can discover which thoughts are promoting serenity and wholeness and which ones can be reframed.

Here are some powerful tools that help to retrain our minds when we discover our thoughts are not promoting peace:

• If you discover your thoughts are negative, move into a spirit of gratitude. Focus on five or six blessings that you truly appreciate and notice the change in your mood.

• If you are ruminating about a challenging or frustrating experience, instead ask yourself, “Why can I learn from this?”

• If you find yourselves thinking negatively about yourself or others, ask yourself, “Is this really true?” At the core, we are children of God. If we find ourselves condemning or belittling ourselves or others, we can remember that each of us are divine, magnificent creations.

• When we or others make a mistake, we can remind ourselves that no one is perfect, that we can learn from our mistakes and move forward. Focusing on our own or others’ faults keeps us from manifesting our strengths.

• If we feel overcome with a weakness, we can ask God to turn that shortcoming into a strength. Then, trust that He will help us do just that. Some of our greatest strengths can arise from the vulnerable, fragile parts of ourselves.

• If we view our thoughts like a movie, we become the director of our own minds. We can change the scene, move the characters, and rewrite the dialogue. We discover that we have the power to rewrite our script of thoughts in a positive, healing way.

Some thought patterns take time to change. Sometimes the more we resist negative thoughts, the more that stay. Instead of battling with our destructive thoughts, we can gently feel them, accept them, and then calmly release them, using the techniques I’ve described. Harmful thoughts are not true. Honest thoughts are peaceful, loving, and healing. They are the essence of who we truly are.

Learning to meditate and to channel our thoughts into a healing place is also very helpful. Our subconscious believes anything you tell it. Today, remind yourself that you a child of the divine, beautifully and wonderfully made. God loves you with an incomprehensible love. Allow Him to fill your heart and mind today with His unfathomable, all-powerful mercy, joy, and peace.

© Carol Brown

Monday, June 21, 2010

Focusing on the Positive

Brain research indicate that we remember negative experiences more vividly than positive ones and that we notice negative interactions more intensely that positive ones. For example, if you have a good day at work and your manager praises your work but your co-worker criticizes, what will you think about when you return home? If you’ve invited family members over for a special party, will you remember the 14 you came or the 2 who didn’t show up or call?

Because it’s easy to think about and remember the bad stuff that happens it our lives, we can retrain our brains so that we can experience greater peace of mind. We do this by allowing ourselves to feel negative emotions and then releasing these feelings. As we focus on the things that are going right in our lives, we can more easily ignore the things that are going wrong.

The great news is that the brain is constantly rebuilding itself. "The brain is not like a computer that has fixed wiring and connections," says neuroscientist Michael M. Merzenich, "Every aspect of you is created by the brain revising itself in response to your interactions in the world—and I mean everything. How you define yourself—the person you are—is a product of plastic changes in your brain. That includes things that relate to your attitude and your emotional construct. What you are is a result of how your brain has tried to create a model of the world, and the brain is plastic until you die."

Since our brains are constantly rebuilding themselves, we can retrain our minds to remember the good stuff. As we notice the negative things we are telling ourselves, we can reframe our thinking and remind ourselves that life isn’t as bad as we’re pretending it is. Sure, a couple of family members may have disappointed you, but 14 showed up with a lot of love and compassion. Perhaps a co-worker was surly, but your other co-workers and your boss respect your work and treat you well. As we focus on all the positive experiences in our lives, we can put the negative ones into better perspective.

Someone once said, “Blessed are the flexible, for they will never be bent out of shape.” We become more optimistic, forgiving, and peaceful when we choose thoughts that are accepting, patient, and merciful. We can’t change other people’s behavior, but we can change the way we react to it—and it all begins with our thoughts.

© Carol Brown

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Be Kind, for Everyone You Meet Is Fighting a Hard Battle

Each one of us yearns to be treated kindly. We long to be validated, respected, and cherished. It is an innate human need to feel loved, yet it is also a natural human tendency to be unkind, selfish, and rude, especially when we feel threatened, tired, or frustrated.

In 2007, Rev. Will Bowen of Christ’ Church in Missouri challenged his congregation to go 21 days without complaining. He passed out purple wristbands and urged his followers to wear them. If they griped, gossiped, or criticized someone, they were asked to move the wristband to the other arm. Rev. Bowen confessed that it took him almost four months before the wristband remained on his right arm every single day. The movement has caught hold, and Rev. Bowen has received requests for over 6,200,000 wristbands, which have been processed on his Web site,

Imagine living in a world in which people spoke with kindness and love to everyone. Imagine homes, businesses, institutions, communities, and countries where people speak with courtesy and respect to everyone—even those who are difficult to love. Experts say that one person who is kind influences the lives of hundreds of others for good. Imagine the rippling effect of one percent of the world’s population practicing radical kindness.

Everyone you meet carries a heavy burden—or will someday. People struggle with health challenges, financial pressures, insecurity, loss, and thousands of other challenges. Everyone deserves kindness—including ourselves.

I have discovered that when I am critical and condemning of myself, I tend to be more critical of others. As we show kindness to ourselves, we experience greater peace of mind and can then radiate that peace to others. Peace, the highest form of joy, is contagious.

We cannot change other people, but through loving kindness, we can inspire others to be a little kinder, to do a little better. I love this statement by Stephan Grellet, “I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

God's Infinite Love for Us

I visited my parents’ graves yesterday. As I thought about their many acts of service, their love for God, and their love for others, I praised God for these wonderful parents. My dad’s been gone for 42 years, my mom for 11. How I miss them!

I’ve sat with a number of dying friends and family members. When they reached the end of their journeys, they didn’t care about how much stuff they’d accumulated or how much they’d accomplished. Instead, they cared deeply about their relationship with God and with their family and friends. After all, that’s all we can take with us when we leave this world and enter the next.

God is preparing a mansion for those who love and honor Him. All He asks is that we follow Him, and if we chose to do so, He will give us everything He has. He asks for so little from us and offers unimaginable blessings in return.

John saw that after Christ returns to the earth, a great multitude was praising God and worshiping Him. One of the elders asked him, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

He answered, “Sir, you know.”

And the elder said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.

“Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

When our days are difficult, we can remember that someday God will wipe away all our tears. He waits to comfort us now, to give us peace even when life is hard. May you feel His infinite love today.

Reflect on the love letter he wrote to us years ago:

Shout for joy, O heavens;
rejoice, O earth;
burst into song, O mountains!

For the LORD comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

But Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me.’

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?

Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.”

© Carol Brown