Have you ever stood on a mountain? Gazed at the line where the sky meets the water while standing at the edge of the ocean? Looked down from the window of an airplane during takeoff?
If you haven’t done any of those things, I sincerely hope that one day you get the opportunity to. There’s a sort of mystery in these short periods of time; a reflective moment in which you can come up with a thousand questions, not have an answer to a single one of them, and it’s okay. These moments always make me feel small…or maybe they just make the world seem big. Either way, I love it. When I encounter these small pauses from the chaos of everyday life, I like to be alone. I am a strong believer that moments like these help build your self-awareness and independence when the time is used to reflect, appreciate, and/or meditate on one or a few things.
Today, I want to talk about meaningful moments. Like I said in our last post (read it here), battling with our minds is a hard struggle. Our minds are pulled in a literally thousands of different directions every day. The Laboratory of Neuro Imaging (LONI) in Los Angeles, CA did a preliminary study and estimates that the average human brain can have 60,000-70,000 thoughts a day. Let’s say you’re awake for 16 hours a day. That puts you at about 62 thoughts every minute. How many of these thoughts are negative? How many are positive? How many are sub-conscious? How many are intentional? There are statistics and studies to educationally guess the answers to questions like these, but I don’t want to focus on that. Let’s instead focus on what we are choosing to do with time spent thinking.
In Romans (12:2), Paul talks about being transformed by the renewing of our minds. He says, “Do not be conformed to this world…”. To conform means ‘to comply with rules or standards; to behave according to socially acceptable standards’. I think the best way to not comply with something is to distance yourself from it. For example, if you don’t want to catch a contagious disease (let’s say the flu) then you probably aren’t going to go spend time in close quarters with someone who is infected with it. The same can be said about spending time around negativity. If you know that someone tends to be very negative and you are choosing to spend time with them, chances are you’re quicker to be negative in your own thinking. Like it or not, we are largely influenced by the things that surround us. Social media and entertainment can make or break who we become if we let it. I believe that this is why Paul warns us not to conform ourselves to the patterns of this world — he knew that these patters are cynical, impure, and selfish. We have to learn how to distance ourselves from these things; we have to let our minds be renewed by both the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. This can mean getting into a habitual Bible reading plan, talking with God before doing anything else in the morning, or setting time aside to have a meaningful moment. Meaningful moments can be moments of thanks, moments of meditation, or moments of realization. Like anything, getting into a habit of making such moments starts with a single step. I’ll share some ideas to help kick-start a plan of action for learning to set time aside, but there is one really simple one that I want to talk about first.
Last Thanksgiving, I went to my home church in Mankato, MN for the weekend and learned a very impactful concept during the sermon on Sunday morning. Our pastor preached a sermon on thankfulness (listen to it here) . He said “Sometimes we are so blind to the things that we have been given. Sometimes, we are so wrapped up in ourselves and our own lives we forget even to say thanks for these things. Sometimes we are just so preoccupied with the things we don’t have, that we miss all of the things we do have.” These are all reasons why it’s so important to pause, take a step back and spend a moment in thankful prayer. During the sermon, my pastor showed a video that I want to share with you. It’s about finding time to sit on our ‘Thanksgiving chair’. In other words, setting aside time to thank God. If you have a 3 minutes, go check it out here.
Now, your ‘Thanksgiving chair’ does not need to be physical (although if it helps, absolutely find a chair to remind you). But I want to encourage you to find moments to ‘sit on your thanksgiving chair’. Whether you are standing on a mountain with a moment of solitude at hand, standing outside your kids’ bedroom after you’ve put them down for a much-needed nap, or you’re sitting at your desk with a thousand things to do and not enough time to do it — take 60 seconds, 1 minute, 62 thoughts and thank God for what you do have. If you’re feeling like you have nothing to be thankful for, remember that you can always be thankful for God. Be thankful for his unconditional love, his renewing grace, and his consistency. In 1 Thessalonians it says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” If you’ve ever wondered about God’s will for you, here it is. Spelled out for you, it’s a place to begin to find His perfect will.
Give thanks, and God will honor you.
Give God a moment, and he will make it meaningful.
Ideas for starting habits of giving God your thinking time:
- When you wake up, before you do anything else (I’m looking at those of us who social-media through the first moments of our day), spend some time with God. Set a timer for 5 minutes, and use it to read a few Bible verses and meditate on them. Pray, out loud if you can. It’ll wake you up and it will set your day off on the right foot, even if your prayer is a simple, “God, let this day and all that it holds be yours.”
- One thing that can really help is getting up earlier in the morning. Start by setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier, and using that extra 10 minutes to do a devotional or study some scripture. Then, you can move it back to 15 minutes, 20 minutes, or a half-hour depending on what you feel is necessary.
- Fast. If you don’t know what fasting is, you can read about it here. If setting aside time to pray is hard because your schedule is busy, you can fast something in your life (often meals) and using the time you would normally use for a specific thing to pray. It’s biblical, and it is powerful.
- Find an accountability partner! One of the best ways to start something is to do it with someone else. Find a friend, mentor, or other leader who can help you dive into the Word, spend time in prayer, or fast with you.
Getting started won’t always be easy, but by starting with just 1 meal, 1 day, or 1 hour at a time can make a world of difference in your spirital, mental, and phsycial wellness. Happy beginning!