Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Yes to God Tuesday: Chapter Two - Renewing Your Thought Closet...

“Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in thy sight,
O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
- Psalm 19:14 (KJV)

It's week 2 of the Yes to God Tuesday study (hosted by Lelia at Write From the Heart) of Jennifer Rothschild's book "Self Talk, Soul Talk". Jennifer starts this week’s chapter by talking about the power of words, as learnt by her from her grandmother. The message that her grandmother wanted to relay, from telling Jennifer to “don’t ever watch so-poppers (soap operas)”, was that words are powerful. And how we say these words, so full of power but without even knowing it, to ourselves, under our breath, away from scrutiny and away from wise correction.

What we think effects what we say, which then effects what we do. If I tell myself that I am just plain hopeless (which does happen) then my talk – both external and internal – becomes negative, which then leads me feeling unhappy and depressed, which then leads to me having to extract myself from life so I can work hard at crawling back out the hole I usually find myself in. WORDS ARE POWERFUL! They can make or break us.

Jennifer writes that “some of the most powerful words we utter are words no one else ever hears. They are the words we speak to ourselves.” Imagine how God feels when He hears us speak to ourselves like we do! What must He be thinking? I dare say that He is feeling downright sad at the fact that we feel like we do about ourselves.

So this leads me onto Jennifer’s question – “Why do we speak them?” Why indeed? Well, Jennifer gives us the answer. “We say them because they have found shelf space in our thought closet, and we find them near at hand in those moments when we are inclined to slander ourselves. These are the kinds of words that haunt us and plague us for years on end.” That is SO very true!

I have made mistakes over the years, from walking away from God, to marrying a non-believer and then finding myself divorced and living away from my family, to then moving onto a now failed relationship with my daughter’s father, and the list goes on. I have made many mistakes. I wish that I had not made those mistakes, but I did. I tell myself over and over that I only did what I knew best to do at the time, but that does not take away how I really feel deep down inside; hurt, shame, regret and so on. I actually find it very hard to forgive myself for being so, what I consider to be, stupid and for making those mistakes. Now, you can’t get any more negative about yourself than that, or at least I don’t think so. And that is where I am going wrong.

Jennifer helps to explore why I am going about it all wrong, and that is because I, like many others, have “borrowed unbecoming beliefs from other people and hung them in our thought closet. We have grabbed clumsy considerations and careless characterizations and make them part of our wardrobe even when they didn’t come close to fitting.” I believe that I have done exactly that. My life has not lived up to the expectation of what it was imagined to be, and so because of that I have allowed the so called failure of achieving the dream of what is largely considered to be the norm in life dictate what I say to myself now.

Now that I am older and somewhat wiser than what I was even a year ago, I now see that I learnt the hard way that I need to “refuse to let untruths and destructive words and thoughts occupy prime space” in my mind. I firmly believe that this happened because my focus was on achieving the ‘dream’ life and not achieving the life that God mapped out for me. I was way off course, and my mind, heart and soul suffered. I was living the wrong life; my focus was all wrong! My focus was not on God. I was not obedient to Him.

Jennifer talks of the apostle Paul and his message in 2 Corinthians 10:5 and how we need to “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Basically, we need to take control of what we think and match it up to what Jesus would think. “...the structure of life shaped by Christ...” is how The Message translates the end of the verse. Not by us, not by what our parents think, not by what our workmates think, but by what Christ thinks; how He wants our lives to be shaped.

I asked myself if I could ever imagine God saying that I was a failure; that I just can’t get anything right, that I really screwed up in my life. The answer is no. He made me, He loves me (just as I am!), He is shaping me, He is guiding me; He sent His Son to die for me! Why then would He ever think about me what I do? He wouldn’t...period. So I need not either! I need to find some of that truth that Jennifer talks about; get rid of the old labels and mindsets and replace them with truth.

One key is to speak wisely to yourself. Jennifer writes that it is essential. This can be achieved by being like Jesus and using gracious and powerful words, which He was renowned for. Not damaging words, and not harsh words like we use on ourselves. Jennifer uses the example of Luke 22:4 where after Jesus had spoken in the synagogue, “All spoke well of him and were amazed [or astonished] at the gracious words that came from his lips.” Do I speak gracious words to myself? Jennifer asks, “Are they kind? Or are they harsh? Do your words condemn you?” No, I do not always speak graciously to myself, my words about myself are not always kind, they can be very harsh and yes, they do condemn me. I am, of course, my own worst enemy, my own worst critic, and the unrealistic benchmarker in my life. I need to be my friend and my encourager and I need to cut myself a little slack!

In saying that, I need to follow Marilyn Meberg’s example and work on disciplining myself a little bit more when my negative self talk starts. Jennifer interviewed Marilyn (a "professional talker"), and Marilyn explained how she counsels herself. When she knows that the negative self talk is starting, she disciplines herself. Marilyn says, “That’s instruction. That’s good for me. That builds me up.” But, like with all of us, when she feels “condemned, like I’m not good enough, that’s not instructive. That’s destructive.” Very true words spoken! Marilyn sums it up by saying, “Instruction brings life, condemnation brings destruction.”

We all know that instruction is important and how damaging words can be when they are not the right ones. We all experience it on a daily basis in our lives. I know from being the mum of a near 5 year old that I must discipline her to teach her the right way of living. I must provide instruction and not condemnation. This is one of the areas I berate myself over; the fact that I feel that I’m not doing a good enough job in raising my daughter. I have realised that there is no way I can do my best job with her if I firstly can’t do a good job at disciplining myself. I need to show myself some unconditional love, as well as tough love, and get my mind where it should be and talk to myself nicer.

My words to myself, and my daughter for that matter, need to be wise and truthful ones. These types of “words are never harsh or unkind. They are gracious.” These types of “words are never wimpy or without power. They have authority.” We can find this graciousness and authority. And we can find the truth. We need to “counsel ourselves with truth”, not lies, not with words that make no sense to where we’re at now in our lives.

“Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.” – Colossians 4:5 (NLT)

This is an amazing verse as it sums up what we need to do, not only in our conversations with others, but more importantly in our conversations with ourselves. As Jennifer writes, the “...‘Everyone’ includes you.” I am going to start listening more to what I am saying to myself. I am going to be nicer to myself. I am going to start speaking the truth to myself! I have always battled with telling myself the truth about me. I have always worried too much about what other people have thought of me instead of what I think of myself. And most importantly, I have missed the most important element in all of this: God.

Jennifer writes how we “can’t remove those hurtful thoughts, words, and memories, but by the power of God, you can drain them of their personal control over you.” I read this sentence and 5 important words stood out (I was taken aback actually) – BY THE POWER OF GOD. He has forgotten my sins, He has cleansed me and made me new and He still loves me just as much as when He first entered my name into His book of life. I cannot forget what I have said about and to myself, but I can speak to myself better. I can take captive “every thought to the obedience of Christ.”


  1. Paula,

    Thank you for sharing this. Powerful and true. I grew up on Psalm 19:14 and it's also one of my anchor Scriptures for 2009. The mind is the battlefield where the enemy most works when we have not surrendered that area continually to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

    Many Christians live defeated because of negative thoughts and the words they speak. God had to deliver me from a difficult child hood that bred a lot of fear in my life. Overwhelming fear and it caused my thoughts to be very DEFEATING. The words we think and speak are riddled with power. The Bible tells us that the tongue has the power of life and death in it.

    We have to choose to think and speak healing words that reflect that Christ is alive in us and those words must be toward ourselves as well as to others and when we fail to do so we must quickly, with the LORD's help get back on course again.

    Bless you my friend. Your heart to share is very encouraging to me this day.

  2. I'm taking captives too, Paula! I'm another one who has always had to learn the hard way, so I completely understand regret. But you are right, God made us and He can use all of our mistakes we made when we followed our will, not His.

    This book has already helped me with my self-talk. Sounds like there are a lot of ladies out there who talk down to themselves!

    God is so amazing how He brought us all together.

    Love ya!

  3. Terrific, honest post Paula. I loved what you wrote here: My words to myself, and my daughter for that matter, need to be wise and truthful ones.
    I remember so often when my oldest was your daughter's age just crying myself to sleep, telling myself what a horrible mother I was. It's so important to believe God's Word over our own or the enemies.
    SO glad you are doing this study with us!!!
    Love you girl!

  4. Paula, you hit on good points. I love the scripture in Corinthians about taking EVERY thought captive. Her story about her gramma and so-poppers was cute. You are right, God would never say we are failures, call us stupid, ignorant, or just mess-ups. It's so hard to truly think of ourselves as God does. But, oh, isn't it wonderful that He thinks of us in such positive lights. Praise the Lord for His love for us. Amen!
    Miss hearing from you.
    Visit when you can.
    Love ya,

  5. Hi Paula,

    How I related to this post. I understand regret especially in choices regarding relationships. Maybe that's why the Woman at the Well story is so dear to my heart, it shows how much God is gracious loving and forgiving.

    I also relate to what you say about raising your daughter. I always try and speak so much love and truth to her, and the times I fail I beat myself up over it.

    Let's take those captives, and keep our eyes and thoughts on God.

    Love ya,

  6. Hi Paula! I can relate to so many things you've said here. I am glad we are works in progress - although we aren't where we need to be, we aren't where we used to be. The most important thing for me to remember is that in myself, I am totally defenseless, and that's okay. God designed us to be insufficient in ourselves. Stop by my place if you get a chance - I also tuned to those five words, "by the power of God". Blessings and soul talk to you, my friend.

  7. "I asked myself if I could ever imagine God saying that I was a failure; that I just can’t get anything right, that I really screwed up in my life."

    Hi Paula, don't we all wish we could change the past and think about our failures but I LOVED your statement above! You know in your head that He wouldn't say those things. I think most of our lives are spent getting things from our heads to the depths of our spirits. We are a work in progress. It sounds like you have chosen to be back with Him now---WOO HOO for that, I celebrate with you---you are His beloved.