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Your Mind is a Garden


Being a writer in this modern world often requires a certain amount of time spent on social media and the internet. I spend time reading articles, stories and news clips, as well as watching videos, gathering and researching information. And often, I find the content rewarding and uplifting.

However, there are times when it seems like most of what I see is negative, sad, hateful, disappointing, disgusting, or rude.

There have been certain news stories for instance, about people and events that are just so horrible that it is hard for my mind to conceive the reality of it. I find myself asking, “How could anyone do such a terrible thing”? I know the answer…because there is evil in the world. But knowing that does not make me feel any better.

Earlier this year, while I was gathering some information for an article I was working on, I read several stories that disturbed me deeply. Everywhere I looked, I found more bad news. With a seemingly constant bombardment of rancid content, I found myself being filled with hatred, disgust and contempt over the atrocities. The emotions going through my heart were so strong, I was physically shaking and began to feel quite sick.

I knew the feelings that I was experiencing were not good, and not according to God’s will. I know He doesn’t want for me to hate anyone. But with each story I read, each news clip and show I watched, I found it more difficult to let these negative emotions go. I decided I had to take a break for a while.

The main purpose of my writing is generally to encourage others and share hope through faith in Jesus, and sometimes a little humor to lift the spirits. In going back over the articles I had been writing, I could see a sourness in them that I knew was not what God wanted for me to share. By secular (worldly) standards, they were fine articles. But not by God’s standards. So I deleted them all.

As a result, I haven’t produced very much writing this summer. Like a drained battery, I needed to recharge myself, and my spirit.

I was reminded of what the bible says in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].” (AMP)

I have spent the majority of this summer working on yard improvement projects, and spirit improvements as well. In reading and studying the bible, and through much prayer, I have found new strength and vitality in my spirit, along with renewed joy.

Two verses in particular had a profound impact on my heart in regards to what had been going on in my spirit:

Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23 AMP)

But take heed to yourselves and be on your guard, lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed (weighed down) with the giddiness and headache and nausea of self-indulgence, drunkenness, and worldly worries and cares pertaining to [the business of] this life, and [lest] that day come upon you suddenly like a trap or a noose; (Luke 21:34 AMP)

As I had been reading and watching negative stories, my thoughts became negative, and so did my heart. My writing (which comes from my heart) was also coming out negative.

I made an intentional change, a decision to “guard my heart”, in refraining from negative influences. In choosing to intentionally surround myself in positive and encouraging people, stories, songs and scriptures, my own spirit has become positive again.

It became very clear to me that what I allow into my mind (what I see and hear) has a very strong influence on my thoughts, which in turn, influences my heart. What is in my heart is what comes out of my mouth, (or written) what I share with others.

I’ve had to learn to not allow myself to be distracted by negative or ungodly images and postings. Sometimes that means scrolling past certain stories, pictures and videos. Sometimes it means turning the channel on the TV, or turning it off altogether. Sometimes it means closing the newspaper, and opening my bible.

It’s not that I’m trying to pretend that there is no evil in the world and that everything is fine. I know all too well bad things happen, evil does exist. But I can’t afford to let it infect my heart and suck all the joy and good things out of my spirit! I can choose what I look at and listen to, and I choose positive and encouraging things, and images that build love and hope.

What do you allow to influence your mind, and therefore your heart?

For parents, what do you allow to influence your children?

Your Mind Is A Garden

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The Stranger


A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small Tennessee town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later.

As I grew up I never questioned his place in our family. Mom taught me to love the Word of God. Dad taught me to obey it. But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the most fascinating tales. Adventures, mysteries and comedies were daily conversations. He could hold our whole family spellbound for hours each evening. He was like a friend to the whole family. He took Dad, Bill and me to our first major league baseball game. He was always encouraging us to see the movies and he even made arrangements to introduce us to several movie stars.

The stranger was an incessant talker. Dad didn’t seem to mind, but sometimes Mom would quietly get up – while the rest of us were enthralled with one of his stories of faraway places – and go to her room read her Bible and pray. I wonder now if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave.

You see, my dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions. But this stranger never felt an obligation to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our house – not from us, from our friends, or adults. Our longtime visitor, however, used occasional four-letter words that burned my ears and made Dad squirm. To my knowledge the stranger was never confronted.

My dad was a teetotaler who didn’t permit alcohol in his home – not even for cooking. But the stranger felt he needed exposure and enlightened us to other ways of life. He offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages often. He made cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (too much too freely) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. I know now that my early concepts of the man/woman relationship were influenced by the stranger.

As I look back, I believe it was the grace of God that the stranger did not influence us more. Time after time he opposed the values of my parents. Yet he was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave.

More than thirty years have passed since the stranger moved in with the young family on Morningside Drive. But if I were to walk into my parents’ den today, you would still see him sitting over in a corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

His name? We always called him “TV”.

He has a sister now. Her name is “computer”.

(Author Unknown, but seems to have appeared in circulation on the internet around 2007)

Just something to think about: What we allow to enter our minds also enters our hearts. And from our hearts, our life flows. What’s flowing from you?

Dealing With Peer Pressure


I’ve been working on a mini series of articles concerning daily issues for our young people, and how they cope with these issues. It is my hope that God will work through these posts to reach out to those in need of hope, encouragement and guidance, to let them know that they are not alone in their struggles. God cares about each and every one of us, and He wants to help us.

If you or someone you know has any ideas or suggestions about future posts, or are interested in doing a guest post, please leave a message in the comment section. As always, I’d love to hear from you!

I am very pleased to share with you the following guest post from Stephanie Kehr, a fine upcoming young author. Her article is on peer pressure, a subject that can be quite troublesome for us all. Please share, like, and leave a comment for her, and be sure to check out her blog, “Musings of a Creative Spirit”.

Thanks, and God bless! – Amber

Peer Pressure: What’s Your Strategy?

 by Stephanie Kehr

“C’mon, Stephanie.”

The sound of twenty pleading teens echoed off the trees, collecting at my ears in a mash of noise and confusion.

“You should try it.”

“It’s great.”

“You’ll love it.”

It was just a swing. Well, a large swing. I’d be strapped in with harnesses and fitted with a helmet and protective gear. But having already tried such a stunt at a previous event, I knew the high swing wasn’t quite my cup of tea. In fact, if I’d had any tea before that attempt, it would have been instantly regurgitated.

“Look, we even got Bethany to do it,” someone nudged me.

I looked to see Bethany climbing the swing, her face as white as Elmer’s glue.

“You’re the only one who hasn’t tried! C’mon, don’t you submit to peer pressure?”

I paused a moment, evaluating myself. “No,” I finally said aloud. “I don’t.”

***

I’m a pure-bred homeschooler. If it weren’t for the kids I babysit, it’s likely I never would have been introduced  to the popular video game, Call Of Duty. Unfortunately, I was introduced. But through the blood, gore, murder, and weapons, Call Of Duty actually taught me quite the lesson during my impromptu babysitting adventure.

If you don’t have strategy, you’ll be shot down. 

You waltz into a room unguarded, and the enemy’s standing behind the door. He fires his gun.  The bar turns red. Your man flashes and disappears. “End Game” appears on the screen. You toss down your controller, frustrated.

With peer pressure on the rise, teens and young adults are more and more often thrown at the mercy of their more popular (and often less intelligent) fellowmen. On the invisible battlegrounds of school, sports, parties, and even churches, the young adults striving for righteousness are often unguarded, caught by surprise, and slowly, but surely enticed by the people and things of this world.

Before we step out into society, it’s important for us to realize that if we don’t enter the battle alert and with strategy, we’ll be shot down.

Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” [KJV]

If we aren’t ready with our weapons, we give the enemy the opportunity to shoot first. If we’re not wearing the proper protective armor, our bar will turn red. If we don’t know how to jump out of the way, we’ll blink and fade. We’ll perish. End game.

Peer pressure’s pretty scary for a teen living in a big, ungodly, unknown world. The most frightening thing about peer pressure is that it sneaks up on us. You don’t realize you’ve got the disease until it’s too late. We’ve already been shot. We’re already following the wrong crowd. How do we make sure we’re firing first? How do we set ourselves up to make it through the teenage years alive?

While I can’t speak for every teen out there, I can speak for myself. Below I have listed five little “strategies” I’ve used to combat peer pressure in an attempt to “shoot first.”

1)     Always, always, always, go back to the Bible.           

You know that group of girls always hanging out by the water fountain at church? They like to gossip, slander, talk about boys, laugh at inappropriate jokes, flirt, and evaluate everyone’s outfit. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Not really. You could find worse.

So, what do you do when an adult or fellow teens urges you to join their group? You go back to the Bible. Even if the girls may look relatively harmless, Proverbs is cram-packed full of warnings against hanging out with gossips, slanderers, and fools. Don’t be like them, the Bible says. Be called. Be chosen. Be different.

Likewise, Ephesians 6:17 says, “And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” [NASB]

The Bible is a weapon. If you’re constantly feeding on its truths, you’ll guard yourself against being pulled away by the lies of the world.  

2)    Keep your feet from evil

In other words, be wise. Don’t pack your head full of video games, dirty music, zombies, murder mysteries, and other garbage that has a bad effect on your mind and carries zero eternal value. Take Philippians 4:8 as an example:

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” [NASB]

If you don’t allow yourself to become interested in the things of the world, you’ll be less likely to be pulled astray.

3)    Set your own standards and stick with them

I don’t tend to go to extracurricular youth get-togethers, because they often promote flirtatiousness, which isn’t something I want to get a heavy dose of. I strive to live set-apart. I don’t spent a huge amount of time with worldly friends. Mostly, when I don’t particularly want to participate in an event, I don’t allow myself to give in to the pressure. Think about Call Of Duty again. You only have a set amount of lives, right? Every time you give into some small and “harmless” pressure, you’re setting yourself up to give into something that might not be so small and harmless. You’re setting yourself up for the loss of that final life. The red bar. The flash. End game.   

Everyone has different God-given standards. What kind of standards have you set for yourself? Do you stick with them?

4)    Evaluate your influences and choose your friends wisely

If I notice myself beginning to slip spiritually, the first thing I do is look at my influences. I look at who I’m hanging out with frequently, and I ask myself who I’m looking up to most. Usually, evaluating, pinpointing, and dealing with the issues in my influential relationships solve half of my problems.

5)    Find older mentors

There’s no way to avoid peer pressure if you’re constantly hanging out with, well…peers. I often try to spend quality time with younger teens and kids in order to be a good influence and a blessing to them. However, I also make a point to spend a decent amount of time with older influences, too, whether they’re in their twenties, fifties, or seventies. We learn from older people, it’s true. The Bible talks about having older mentors and Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of council, but with many advisors they succeed.” Older councilors have been through peer pressure before us and can offer advice. Sometimes they catch our faults, too, and things we don’t see in ourselves. 

When we learn to put together a strategy to avoid peer pressure, we need to plan with the understanding that without prayer and a genuine relationship with God, our strategy will ultimately fail. He is the light in a dark world. He is our strength when we are weak. No matter how tough it may be or how far into the world we may venture, it’s important to always remember our God is faithful, loving, compassionate, and He wants you to lean on Him and Him alone.

Stephanie Kehr photo

Stephanie is a seventeen-year-old dreamer, child of God, and story crafter. She began penning novels as a twelve-year-old and completed her first book at fifteen. In 2013, Stephanie signed with Ellechor Publishing House as a teen author. The release date of her Christian fiction novel, Reaching Home has not yet been announced.

If she isn’t too busy dreaming up kingdoms and reciting poetry, Stephanie plans to graduate with an English degree before her nineteenth birthday. Currently living with her homeschooling family of eight, she hopes to get married one day and move to an isolated cabin by the sea.

Visit Stephanie’s website (www.stephaniekehr.blogspot.com) where she talks about writing, publishing, being a teen author, and her crazy everyday life.

 

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