"…for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her." (Proverbs 8:11)

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Kill the Cookie Monster

If you have ever spent any time on the Internet, you probably know about cookies. Cookies are little bits of code that are deposited into your Internet browser when you visit a website. They include information like which pages you visited, so that the next time you go to that website, the pages load faster. A lot of cookies are pretty harmless, but some of them can insert pieces of code that are unwanted, like programming that pushes advertisements or suggests content that you don’t want to see. Those are little monsters that can wreak havoc if you don’t clear them out of your system.

In the same way, we all have cookies in our brains. These are bits of information that we carry around with us based on previous experiences. Like a computer, our minds unconsciously load in that data when we come across the same or similar people, places and events as we encountered in the past. Our browsing history in the world informs our present experiences. The problem is that some of those little cookie monsters have made their way into our thoughts, as well, and we need to clear them out if we’re going to function properly.


A Familiar Pattern
As an example, I stored away a lot of cookies in my mind and my emotions based on my experiences as a young girl. My parents divorced when I was a toddler, and my father raised me as a single parent until he remarried when I was 11. He tried hard to take good care of me by providing me a safe home and a quality education, and he loved me very much. But he was also pretty far out of his element. See, my father had a short fuse when it came to his temper. He would seem to blow up for no reason. And, as a little girl, that meant I was walking on eggshells because I never knew what was going to set him off. I didn’t want to make daddy mad.

Mad was loud. Loud was scary. Angry = scary.

Years later, when I was a junior in college, I rented a house off campus with three other girls. One morning while I was eating breakfast, one of my roommates came storming downstairs to give me a piece of her mind. I don’t remember the topic—something to do with her right to have her boyfriend hang out at the house when she wasn’t there, I think—but I do remember that she was loud. Really loud. And suddenly, I was six years old again.

I didn’t engage in the argument; I maintained a calm demeanor as she vented all over me for a good five minutes. But after she stormed out the front door, I turned into a quivering mass of Jell-O. I was literally shivering for the next hour, my teeth chattering as if the air were 12 degrees, because angry meant scary. My father had unwittingly deposited a cookie in my mind, and it triggered all the old code, overriding my later life experiences or adult reason.

Time to Clear the Cache
We all have those kinds of cookies, the tapes that play in our head that tell us who we are, how we are to behave, and what we are and are not capable of. Because of my upbringing and things I experienced when I was younger, I carried some very irrational fears into adulthood, along with unmerited feelings of shame. Although I am an accomplished woman in both my personal and professional life, I would find myself stricken with near paralyzing pangs of inadequacy at the most awkward times, ruining what should have been fun and exciting occasions for growth.

Over the years, I have looked for opportunities to “clear the cache” in my mind and get rid of those unwanted cookies. Usually, that meant stepping outside of my comfort zone and facing the fear head on. In my 20s, one of those fears was talking on the phone. I absolutely dreaded calling people, especially strangers, for fear that I would say something wrong and sound stupid. My aversion to the telephone verged on a phobia.

Although at the time I was virtually incapable of calling a taxi or ordering a pizza, I did not want fear to keep me from achieving my goals. I decided to take an internship in public relations, which required me to make phone calls every day. I literally used to write out every word of what I wanted to say on a yellow legal pad before dialing the phone, so I could steel myself for the conversation. The process was emotionally painful, but with repeated practice, the task became easier. I relied less and less on my self-invented script and was able to improvise more. Those skills served me in good stead years later, when I became a journalist and frequently had to arrange interviews by phone. Today, I can call strangers without breaking a sweat. I have also learned from my husband how to brighten the day of the person on the other end of the line through humor and a positive attitude, so that making phone calls is no longer something I dread, but an opportunity to be a blessing.

Renewing Your Mind
If you are being held back by fear or self-defeating behaviors, I challenge you to kill the cookie monster. Root out those old tapes and bits of malicious code, and replace them with new information. Ephesians 2:10 says, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Believe God today that you are competent, capable, and perfectly made in the Creator’s eyes. Get those unwanted cookies out of your head, and be transformed by the renewal of your mind!

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)

February 1, 2015   No Comments

Sharpening Iron

As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Many people think of this in the context of serving others, offering compassion and forgiveness, or helping someone with material needs. Yes, loving your neighbor as yourself can mean bringing someone a home-cooked meal when they are sick, turning the other cheek when a co-worker says something hurtful, or driving 45 minutes to help a friend with a flat tire. But it can also mean being strong when someone else is weak, and being courageous on their behalf.

Several years ago, our six-year-old cat Junior suffered a thrombosis on a Tuesday afternoon. He was lying on the stairs howling in pain and confusion, with his back legs completely paralyzed. I happened to be home that day and quickly scooped him up and rushed him to the vet. My husband Craig dropped everything to meet me there. The news was not good: Junior had only a 5-10% chance of recovery, and even if he did recover, he had a 90% chance of throwing another blood clot within the next six months. It was a genetic condition—nothing we could have foreseen and with no real cure—and so we made the difficult decision to put him down.
Junior the Cat
I cried like a child and fell into my husband’s arms. He was a rock, staying calm and offering me a steady flow of love and support for the next several hours as we said our goodbyes to a beloved pet, and then returned home and tried to step back into everyday life. Craig was strong and steadfast for me when I was weak and broken. Months later, he confessed that he was a wreck that day, too—that he wanted to cry and to be held as he grieved, but that someone had to be the strong one. Someone had to step up.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLV)

What surprised me, however, was when he explained that he had made the decision to be strong long before the event occurred. He had purposed in his mind and his heart to be calm in a time of crisis, regardless of his own feelings and emotions, so that others could trust and rely on him. He chose in advance to put me before himself, and he was ready when I needed his strength.

Going to Extremes
Fast forward to this past week, when I went skydiving for the first time. I have never wanted to skydive—in fact, since Craig and I first married 11 years ago, I have told him repeatedly that I would never in my life jump out of a plane. But last week, I went skydiving because I knew that someone else needed my strength. I purposed in my mind and heart to step as far as possible out of my comfort zone—to do something so extreme and confront my own fears and weakness head on—so that when a friend or even a complete stranger felt weak and broken, they would have a living, breathing example of courage and strength.

My goal was not to encourage anyone else to skydive. My goal was to demonstrate that you can choose to be bold when you feel broken, that you can choose to move forward even when you feel bound by fear. Whether that fear is related to a relationship or a job loss or an addiction or a disability, it doesn’t matter. What matters is seeing first hand that you can choose to be strong, choose to be brave, and find the strength to overcome your circumstances through faith in Christ Jesus. When I jumped, I didn’t know who would need to see that example or hear that message, but I was sure that it would help someone move forward on the path that God has for them.

Be the Example
As children, we rely on our parents, siblings or grandparents to protect and encourage us when we feel frail. As adults, we are often called to be the strong one. We may feel helpless and broken ourselves, but Philippians 4:13 reminds us that our strength comes not from our own efforts or will, but from the Lord. Today, I encourage you to be an encouragement. Set your mind on things above by determining that you will be strong for someone else in a time of need. Reach out to a friend or loved one and edify them with your words and actions. Decide to love your neighbor as yourself by choosing in advance to be their rock.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 NIV)


More verses on encouragement:

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14 ESV)

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25 ESV)

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

January 27, 2015   1 Comment