I felt like I’d stepped into a scene from Mary Poppins. “Feed the Birds” began to play through my mind as I spotted a man feeding pigeons in London’s Hyde Park. I smiled at the birds perched on his shoulders and head. But when he turned around I stepped back and shuddered. White bird droppings splotched his drab coat and the back of his head.
Martin Luther said “You can’t stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can stop it from building a nest in your hair.” Luther was talking about thoughts, of course, not birds. But like birds, thoughts leave their mark. What kinds of thoughts roost in your head and contaminate your view?
Unchecked negative thoughts make us sad, unproductive, and even hurt our relationships. Sometimes we’ve thought a way so long we think it’s normal. Philippians 4:8 provides a plumb line to help us gage our thoughts.
Imagine how your life would be if you followed this admonition: “Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about” (TLB).
Know Your Weak Areas
I know my losses as a teenager surrounding my mother’s death have played into my “what if fears.” When something has touched you, you know it can happen again. What if I lose my husband, my health, or my home?
What sets off your negative thoughts? Some people interpret harmless comments as personal attacks. Others see catastrophic doom in ordinary setbacks. Some are haunted by regret. Learn to recognize your negative patterns so you can stop the downward spiral early.
Feed Your Faith—Not the Birds
God’s word washes away the grime unwholesome thoughts leave behind and heals the wounds that draw them. Below are some that help me, followed by my thoughts in italics:
“When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul” (Psalm 94:19 NASB).
Anxious thoughts deflate us; God’s promises elate us!
When my daughter was little, we memorized the 23rd Psalm in the Living Bible together. Here are some wonderful phrases from it: “1 Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need!”
I’m as secure as my Shepherd is faithful.
“3He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most.”
Jesus helps me be my best. His reputation is tied to how He takes care of me.
“4 Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way.”
My Shepherd guides and protects me.
“5 You provide…blessings overflow!”
Jesus is generous, not stingy, with me.
“ 6 Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.”
Jesus is good, even when life isn’t. He lives with me now, and I’ll live with Him later!
Live Your Faith
After we’ve told ourselves the truth, we practice it—whether we feel it or not. Sometimes, we have to keep telling ourselves the truth over and over again. Faith is shown in action, and the truth will set us free.
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Debbie W. Wilson