What are you looking at?

2020 has hit with a bang. We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, racial violence and inequity is in the news daily, it’s a volatile election year and the quarantine has scrambled our lives almost beyond recognition. How do we respond? More importantly, how do we survive?

In a conversation with a dear friend we were talking about the untimely death from ALS of a mutual friend. Not fair. She had lost a son right before being diagnosed. Too much. For a person, for a family, for a community. I have a dear friend just diagnosed with aggressive cancer. Another friend just lost her brother, a wonderful young man with a wife and four children. TOO MUCH! How do we cope? Surviving may be possible but what about thriving?

Years ago I was struck with this thought: what are you looking at? In the stuff of your daily life, where are you focusing your attention? I submit that whatever captures your attention is defining the quality of your life. Someone close to me despises a certain political figure. Despises. What does she do for a few hours a day? She watches the news until her blood boils and her hair falls out (figuratively speaking, of course). It’s one thing to be informed on critical issues, it’s another to fill your head and heart with details that don’t help. What are you giving your attention to over all other things?  That ‘thing’ is going to define your perception of life, joy, hope, etc.

Please understand that I am not suggesting we bury our heads in the sand and live ignorant of the world around us. I am suggesting that we not give news writers the power to define us. They are not infallible. There are difficult things we must face and respond to but we don’t have to live there. It doesn’t have to solely define us.

It has become the norm to see drive-by graduations and birthday parties. There are online weddings. Grandparents are seeing their new grandbabies through their living room windows unable to touch or smell those sweet little treasures. Extroverts are developing ticks and introverts are forgetting how to hold a conversation.  This is not normal, people. But it is our current reality.

Whatever your current situation, the good, the bad and the ugly of it, decide today what will hold the bulk of your attention, your time and your thoughts. You get to decide what will capture your heart today. Make it something that gives you life and doesn’t drain it from you. Choose hope.

Continuing on….

I realize that it is much easier to say “Only focus on goodness” than it is to practice it every day.  There is a lot going on and it is not all good. In fact, the bad may outweigh the good in your life today. But we must remember that our thoughts are not beyond our control. Granted, any thought may enter your mind but you get to decide whether it lives there or gets sent packing…back to where it came from (not heaven).

Three tools that help me in this area and perhaps might help you:

First, choose to control your thoughts. Be the boss. When your thoughts are running amuk and dragging you into fear or despair or bitterness, say no. Choose to guide your mind to helpful, uplifting and fruitful thinking.

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Secondly, practice gratitude.  Focus on what is good in your life. Are you healthy? Roof over your head? Food in the cupboard? Does somebody love you…even just one person? In the 70’s there was a very popular song by Chaka Khan and Rufus, Tell Me Something Good. That’s what I’m talking about. Tell yourself something good!

Finally, persevere in your practice of controlling your own thoughts. It may not be easy at first but it will soon. Make good choices as to what you let into your mind and then work at lingering and focusing on those things that are helpful, meaningful and hopeful.

If you are a Christ-follower, pray like crazy through this whole process. But prayer alone has not been my journey. I pray like crazy and then work at a new way of thinking and responding.

So, what are you looking at? What most grabs your focus? Is it what you don’t have or is it gratitude for what you do have? With friends and family, are you focusing on their faults and shortcomings or on what makes them loveable? Are your thoughts about God based on his Word or on his perceived lack of action in your life? If you are spending hours of your day reading and watching the news perhaps you could take a break.  Look at a tree. Call a friend. Send someone a note of encouragement.  Remember, whatever you’re looking at is defining the quality of your life right now.

Further reading:

Check out SomeGoodNews with John Krasinski on YouTube. This should lift your spirits quite a bit!

Colossians 3:15-17 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. 16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

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

2 Corinthians 10:5   We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Romans 8:5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.


10 thoughts on “What are you looking at?

  1. Aloha Katy, Once again you have hit the spot! People just cannot seem to “let it go” when it comes to freting about things they cannot control. Politics, neighbors, their own children, traffic, taxes, the Jones’, security, etc. All things to Be-Aware-Of but not center you life around.
    Life is good, if you allow it! I got a call today from my daughter, Kathy, now she has a lot to fret about, but she called to tell me what a wonderful day she was having. She finally got out of the house today (covid isolation) and bought a box of See’s Candy, she was sitting in the parking lot waiting for her daughter who was doing the grocery shopping (Kathy is not allowd to do that because she too old, 60) eating the See’s and having a wonderful day so she called. She gave me a wonderful day too.
    BTW: I have a darn good day everyday because I practice not sweating the small stuff.

    Love you, Uncle Don ❤💋

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    1. Uncle, you are as good at this as anyone I know! I have actually learned to be more present and patient and kind from you. Well done. You have made a difference to so many.
      I love you dearly.

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  2. It helps me to start with finding the “good things” & then turn my full attention instead to the Good God who gives them. Really, for the ones who know Him and are called according to His purpose, everything in our lives is a gift, either in disguise or in an obvious way. But the Giver of every good and perfect gift is better than even His best gifts! One look at His generous face and I’m reminded that He takes even the most desperately hard and painful things and He turns them for good. We triumph over defeat and despair through Him Who loves us. O how He loves!

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  3. Thank you for all your wisdom.

    I recently had a disagreement with a family and it turned ugly fast.

    I will deal with whatever comes my way. But I can’t let this person bullied me. I’ve been upset for 2 days. And your right about focusing on other things. The anger made sick. I had headaches and the lack of sleep was no fun.

    After reading your email I decided to read a book called The God I Never Knew. I want to focus and reroute my mind on God. Just like our GPS, it automatically reroutes us when we get lost. 💙🥰

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  4. YES KATH!!!! PREACH 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻

    This is what we need to hear today and everyday in this season. So very thankful for you.

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  5. This is so timely. I have never been more aware of my thoughts than in this season. Ugh!! I need more of Him and less of me! Thank you, Kathy

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  6. Thanks Kathy, I’m new to your blog, such a good word and so true. Pray pray pray! thankfulness and gratitude.
    No fear!
    Blessings,
    Ginny

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  7. You’re absolutely right about keeping an eye on our thoughts. We do have the absolute final say-so over what and even when we think. Not so easy sometimes, these times.

    For me, social media, especially Facebook, is quite an obstacle course. I love keeping up with friends, families and groups but those nuggets are buried in the crap that’s gotten thicker lately. I don’t always agree with the people I love and like, but I can usually recall a hug, a look, a joke or other human thing instead of that point of non-agreement.

    I’ve learned, for me, to not go on FB every day. It became, metaphorically, like your leaf-blower, with so much debris swirling around until you finally get everything directed and under control. Now, I log on every couple of days and set a time limit of 45 minutes. Then, IMPORTANTLY, I log off. That means I have 45 minutes to go find those nuggets, before my jaw gets too tight, then LOG OFF! I try to do the same thing with other news media but I need to do better at that. I try to remember to not have that be the last thing I see/read before I go to bed. If that runs late, I try to find some music or old comedy skit on YouTube, or just silence, to finish the day. I sleep better.

    I also make the first part of each prayer/meditation time about thanks. Even though it’s hard sometimes, it’s important to me to find something, even if it’s just a good cup of coffee, something, to reinforce gratitude as a habit.

    So, thank you, dear Kathy, and much love!

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