Friday, January 30, 2015

It's Time to Have Your I's Checked: The Four I's to Greater Living

It's time to have our "I's" checked!

“Umph – just three more reps!  I can do this!”  “Let’s go!  Just one more mile!”  “Nope, I’m not going to stuff my face with these cookies; I am going to munch on an apple instead.” 

Do these sound familiar?  We may not always succeed, but we sure do try!

I applaud you for choosing to go against your body’s yearning for what it thinks it wants, but rather to intentionally give it what will yield good health!  You have said no to laziness and yes to fitness!  No to consuming junk and yes to food that brings life and vibrancy!   Yay, you!

When it comes to disciplining our physical bodies, the consequences of our lifestyle and daily habits are obvious.  The way we feel, our stamina and strength, our energy, our weight, and our quality of health are directly connected to our habits, and the benefits far outweigh the sacrifice of discipline.

No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:11 HCSB

Just as we can easily succumb to mindless habits that sabotage our physical health, the same can also be said about our mental and emotional health.  Conversely, just as we must nourish, exercise, and rest our physical bodies for optimum health, we also must nourish, exercise, and rest our minds for optimum mental and emotional health.  I’ll even go one step farther to say that the two actually work together.  When we take care of one, and we are actually taking care of both.  The mind-body connection must not be underestimated because where the thoughts go, the whole person goes.  Therefore, it is my assertion that total body health as well as quality of life are directly influenced by our thoughts, attitudes, emotions, and beliefs as well as our physical habits. 

…and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5b NIV

I will not pretend to be an expert on psychology or neurology, but I have learned from experience that our thoughts and mindsets are usually controllable and habitual.  We do not have to entertain every single thought or feeling that floats into our minds, nor do we have to be enslaved by unhealthy emotions or beliefs.  We do not have to be stuck where we are, but we have the ability and opportunity to change our lives this very day by changing our thoughts and habits of the mind.  A great start is to train your brain by changing your I’s! 

1.   I Am… Start by changing your “I am” thoughts.  This is the center of your emotional health and well being.  Take notice of how you see yourself and how you interpret your feelings and emotions.  Insecurity and lack of self-confidence, for example, are negative, self-defeating mindsets that can be utterly paralyzing, yet they are a result of habitually internalizing lies about your identity and abilities. Learn to recognize all destructive “I am” statements or labels that you have accepted as fact, and break the habit by intentionally focusing on truthful “I am” statements in their place.  Know your real identity – someone who was created in the image of the Most High God and in whom His Spirit lives.  You are a person of value and purpose. Refuse to even consider anything less than that truth!  If you need some help in this area, you will be empowered by my post, Power Thoughts for Women.  Use it regularly and it will transform your life!

"I am” statements also include feelings and emotions.  Dwelling on feelings of depression, anger, awkwardness, stupidity, and such have no place within your mind.  Please do not misunderstand.  I am not saying to deny our God-given emotions or to suppress legitimate conditions; I am talking about not habitually dwelling on them until they become your identity.  For example, clinical depression is a real condition that must be recognized and professionally treated, but to make it a habit of mulling in a depressed state of mind will set your feet on a path to emotional prison.  Also, righteous anger is a God-given emotion that propels us to action to correct injustice.  However, to allow anger to stew in our hearts will cause poison to seep throughout our lives and relationships.  Regardless of your circumstances, focus on things that are true, honest, lovely, beautiful, cheerful, right, and good. These virtues will point you to a more positive and healthy life.

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7a NKJV

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.  Psalm 139:13-14 NLT

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.  Philippians 4:8 HCSB

2.   I Have…  Reformatting your “I have” thoughts can dramatically turn your life around.  Rather than focusing on what you do not have, capitalize on what you do have.  We can easily diminish our many blessings and strengths by continuously moping about our deficits.  Our gifts and assets can seem meager in comparison to someone else’s.  What a foolish game to play!  When our focus is on our lack, we miss out on the marvelous life God has planned for us.  Rather, let us fix our eyes on Jesus and trust that we have everything we need for the best life possible.  Let us practice being thankful and content in all situations, then we will be able to enjoy all the wonderful blessings in our lives.  Choose to enjoy life!

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.  Psalm 23:1 NLT

And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 2 Corinthian 9:8 NLT

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6 NIV

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT

3.  I Can…  It is time to stop allowing “I can’t” to confine you to a constrictive and unfulfilling box.  It is a waste of time!  You are meant for more than that!  Granted, we all have reasonable limits, and we should recognize them.  Some take this mentality to the extreme, however, and then become discouraged when reality hits.  Let’s not be silly here!  I do not believe that the verse “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” means that we can do everything, even fly!  We must be very careful not to take this verse out of context or make it mean something it does not.  However, with Christ’s strength, we really can do all the things in life that we need to do.  We can overcome life’s difficulties.  Through Him, we have courage, wisdom, creativity, strength, and endurance to live victoriously no matter what our circumstances are.  He has equipped us with everything we need to do everything we need to do.  So, it is time to change your default mindset to “I can!”

For I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.  Philippians 4:13 LB

For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.  Philippians 2:13 HCSB

4.   I Give…  The final “I” to work on involves transferring focus away from self and on to others, “I give.”  When our thoughts are predominately self-focused, we will experience a rather dissatisfying and lonely life.  God did not design for us to live on an island all to ourselves, or to jump on the present-day narcissistic band wagon.  We actually find greater fulfillment in life when we help others have more fulfilling lives.  What a wonderful plan God has in store for us!  Make an effort to express love, show kindness, appreciate, encourage, and serve others.  Zig Ziglar states it so well, “You will get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”  He is not talking about manipulating others so that our selfish desires would be satisfied, but he is meaning that to live beyond ourselves and to serve others is the only way to be fulfilled ourselves.

 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Romans 12:10 NIV

And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.  Hebrews 10:24-25 HCSB

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  Matthew 16:4-25 NLT

The key to changing your habits, thoughts, mindsets, and beliefs is to replace them with something better.  We are always in a process of growth and must be willing to make changes as we learn.  Regularly have your “I’s” checked and replace damaging habits with life-empowering behaviors, thoughts, and practices.  The result will be a life well lived and enjoyed, and ultimately a life that glorifies God!