Can you sit alone, with an idle mind?

Researchers say we cannot relax when we’re alone with our thoughts. When I first read the article by Michelle F Cortez from Bloomberg News, I thought the University of Virginia in Charlottesville researchers must be studying “typical” twenty-first century people who have not developed their spiritual life. Reading on, I discovered that though they began with college students, afterward they recruited participants from a farmer’s market and a church, and the results were the same. For some of the group tested, even negative experiences (a mild shock) were preferred to sitting idle and alone.

Even worse, “Department of Labor data show 83% of Americans do not spend any part of their day just thinking.” (I’m curious about how they came up with their data, and why our tax dollars are being spent there, but that’s another issue.)

I’ve pondered this for a couple of days, privately feeling a little superior to those tested. After all, I love time to myself and don’t need entertainment or constant contact through electronics.

Re-reading, I noticed the lead researcher, Timothy Wilson, stated, “The mind evolved to solve problems in the world, to look for dangers and opportunities to engage.”

Rather than blind evolution, I believe our minds were created, and that we were made to live in relationship with our Creator.

Light bulb moment!

Of course we don’t want to sit with an idle mind! We were created to communicate with the Word, all the time. Our minds are designed to engage, even when our bodies are still.

So, it’s not about whether or not we can sit alone in a room. It’s all about our focus.

“Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”

I Thessalonians 5:16-18

It’s not by accident that Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts has transformed so many lives. We were designed to be thankful, to look around us and see His hand, to be grateful, and to say so, either in our thoughts, spoken or written words.

Everyone I know who is rising above “impossible” circumstances seeks blessings in the ordinary of each day. And gives thanks.

When we look anywhere else, we are settling for far less than we were created for.

Phil 4 19 w Kyle on beach
Phil 4 19
Philippians 4:5 The Message

When the branches are bare

Spring is in full bloom here in southwest Florida. I’ve waited a few weeks to say so, in consideration of those who still shovel snow or stare at dirt-encrusted snow piles, instead of deep pink azaleas or an apricot colored Amaryllis.

 

azalea
azalea
amaryllis
amaryllis

Only three weeks ago, the deciduous trees (yes, we do have a few that stand bare for several months) sported nothing more than buds. Now, bright green leaves wave in the breeze. The Easter lilies have sent up fresh stalks and I’m hoping for blooms in two weeks. My Crepe myrtles unfurled new leaves just a day ago, and I’ve put in a few tomato, dill and basil plants.

Sounds like paradise, doesn’t it?

None of us live in Eden.

Here, we don’t have a true fall. (Our seasons are actually rainy season and dry season.) When the days grow longer and the sap starts pushing, like permanent teeth taking their place in the mouth, the oaks shed brown leaves as the new ones push into place. However, before the oaks are painted bright green, thousands of leaves have to be raked and bagged.

Along with the amaryllis comes new growth of a wretched, invasive vine with vicious thorns.

thorny vine
thorny vine

And every bare spot in the yard is filled with ugly weeds that boast hundreds of seeds. (Interesting, they grow best in the poorest soil.) Even if I spray weed killer, they go to seed before they die. Pulling by hand is the only way to get rid of them.

weed
weed

Much as I yearn for beauty, peace, and an uncomplicated life, escape from disease, cruelty and death, as long as I live in this world, it will always be a mixed bag.

What I do with that bag is what makes the difference. Many circumstances I have no control over, but I get to choose my focus.

Will I look at the flower, or the thorn?

The old injury, or the sculpted tree?

© Jack H Thompson
opening in trunk
tree on snowy landscape ©Jack H Thompson
tree on snowy landscape

When nothing else lines up, can I see the morning light in a spider web and take delight in small graces?

spider web in morning dew
spider web in morning dew

When the branches look bare, will I search for the bud or recall last spring, and trust that it will leaf again?

spring leaves
spring leaves

Are there bare branches in your life?

Does it seem like forever since leaves danced over you?

What do you see?

No fear?

I’ve always fought the constraints of fear in my life. I assumed it was from my childhood, with an abusive father with hands two feet long, and the complete lack of affirmation.

However, after recent experiences, I am questioning that assumption.

In the Swiss Alps with my two grandsons, Middle Daughter’s boys, watching the difference in those two makes me wonder how much is built-in.

The oldest, Jeremy, is more like me. He thinks a lot, projects what might happen before he takes action, and is, therefore, sometimes paralyzed when the prospects of harm loom greater than the benefits.

Kyle, two years younger, seems to have no fear.

They have been taking freestyle skiing lessons every Saturday. Jeremy studies the moves and calculates his jumps and landings. He has wonderful form, and once he decides he is ready, executes the moves beautifully.

On the other hand, Kyle watches the instructor and goes for it, never even looking to see where he will land.

Last night, they spent several hours practicing in a special freestyle gym, with all kinds of trampolines and foam pits, jumps and ramps.

Jeremy awed me with his freestyle moves on the trampoline, naming each move.

Click on the arrow to see Jeremy practicing. (This has several video segments together, so watch to the end.)

I moved on to watch Kyle ride a scooter down a ski jump into a foam pit, and worked to get my heart back in my chest. After several of those, he did flips into the pit from a platform at least fifteen feet above. After a back flip from there, looking for a greater challenge, he scaled the rock climbing wall and did a back flip off of it.

Kyle jumping from the climbing wall

Kyle on kickboard on ski jump doing flip

Kyle flipping over the edge of the wall.

Today, I asked Kyle what he thinks about before he tries something new. He shrugged and replied, “If it seems like it would be fun, I do it.” That simple. When I asked if he was ever afraid before he did something, he looked at me with a puzzled expression.

So if we are born with these tendencies, then God created us that way. Maybe I can stop beating myself up for being so cautious.

And you impulsive ones can rest assured you weren’t made that way by mistake, either.

For the cautious ones like me, Paul encourages us.

God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way.Ephesians 6:10 The Message

More than encouragement, Paul tells us the real battle is the spiritual one, and we are all fitted for that.

This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.Ephesians 6:11

So perhaps we are made so different in order to band together, in marriage, families, friendships, churches, small groups, wherever we find support. It’s the body of Christ thing. Together, we have the courage to move, as well as the forethought and planning to take into account what might come against us.

And God gives us all full armor for protection, and for the weapons we need for the battle before us.” Ephesians 6:12 The Message

What’s your tendency, too much or too little caution?

How are you growing with the bent you are created with?