Friday, 23 September 2016

Looking for Thanks in All the Wrong Places


I glanced up at the clock as tiny shards of light fell across the table. It was dawn - almost time to get ready for the busy day ahead of me, and I had been up most of the night. I could feel the strain in my back, neck and shoulders. I needed to get up and stretch, to get moving, but I knew how important it was to finish this project, so I kept going. Almost done, I told myself. Love lightens the load.

Later, as I sat wearily on my bed, stealing a few minutes before the craziness of another day crashed in on me, not only did my body ache, but my spirit did too. 

I felt low. Unappreciated.

Have you ever felt that way? You worked hard, gave sacrificially of your time and effort, and even though you didn’t do it for thanks, your spirit sank just a little when no one seemed to notice.

I sat there thinking… I wonder if he knows… if he understands the sacrifice it was. Yes, he had hurriedly mouthed thanks, but his obligatory word did little to convince me that he really appreciated my help. Sullenly, I mused, ‘Why can’t he be more thankful?’

(Isn't it funny how we accuse others of the very sins we are guilty of? There I was accusing my gracious and kind husband, while I was the one guilty of thanklessness.)

And then it started. From somewhere deep inside me… a slight flutter ...unrecognizable at first… but the stirrings grew, until a barely audible whisper escaped my mouth, ‘Thank you, Lord! Thank you for the opportunity to be of help to my husband. I am so blessed to be able to serve him in this way.’

The cure was instantaneous. It was as if I had swallowed a magic pill. Gone was the sullen, discontented spirit; in its place was an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and peace.  

As I went about my day with a new spring in my step, I chuckled about how I had stumbled upon the cure. Always there, right within my grasp,  mine for the choosing - the cure for a disgruntled and sullen spirit. The choice to give thanks. 


As I hummed the old song by Johnny Lee 'Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places', aptly replacing love with 'thanks' in the recesses of my mind, I smiled at the subtle ways God does some of His most amazing work in my life.


'And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.' Colossians 3:17
'Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.'  1 Thessalonians 5:18

It's not that I'm not thankful, generally speaking. As a glass half full kind of person, in the big issues of life, I customarily choose to focus on something to be thankful for, rather than ruminating on all that's wrong. 

But often, in the nitty gritty of the everyday, I forget to put on my thankful lens. Sometimes, I end up grumbling and complaining about the very things I ought to be thankful for. (Ever happens to you? How absurd, right?)

Just like that, I slip and slide right out of God's will for my life. 

I don't know about you, but that is not a place I want to be. I want to be right up there under His wings, abiding in His presence, 'striving with all His energy working powerfully within me'. 

The fact that this is even possible - that the Creator of heaven and earth has chosen me and 'rides across the heavens to help [me]' accomplish the good works He has prepared in advance for me to do - bowls me over and floods my spirit with thankfulness.  

And when I choose to live thankful, I am blessed. Happy. Blissful. With a deep, internal happiness regardless of what is happening externally. A happiness not reliant on temporal things, like the praise of others or an expected 'thanks' that feeds my flesh, but wholly dependent on my relationship with God, my father.   

Yes, when I choose to remember the privileges I have in Him, and how grateful I am to be working in His kingdom, my life overflows with thanksgiving, and a disgruntled or discontented spirit has no chance to take root. 

Moment by moment I get to choose. Thankful or fretful? I get to choose to remain in the center of God's will for my life and in doing so open the floodgates for God's blessings to pour down. 

How's that for a cure for a sulky spirit?

What about you? 

Have you fallen into the trap? Are you looking for thanks in all the wrong places or are you eagerly cultivating a harvest of thanksgiving in your own life? 

Remember the choice is yours. 

What do you choose to be thankful for right now? 

Why don't you take a moment and list them all out? It might surprise you just how happy it'll make you. 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

A New Way Forward


I want what she has.

That sparkle in her eyes! The look of wonder and utter amazement as she gazes at the beauty around her. The way she expresses her joy! Simply, but wholeheartedly!

There's something absolutely magical about being in the presence of a two-year old as she looks for the first time on God's creation. 

"Wow!"she exclaims, and her whole body lights up - her eyes wide with wonder!

Fresh eyes! Yes, that's what it is! Fresh eyes! The ability to look around and really see everything like you are seeing it for the very first time. Soaking up every minute detail and savoring it. 


I watch as delight floods her little body, and I am thankful. Thankful for her parents who have taught her to see the Creator behind all the beauty she sees. 

"Ocean!" she says excitedly. "I like it!"

"Who made the ocean, Sanaa?"  

"Jesus!" she shrieks, and her enthusiasm melts my heart. 

I am thankful for this reminder to look around and fully see the everyday miracles around me. Sure, I spend time daily standing amazed at the beautiful scenery all around me. I live in the Caribbean, so I simply have to look out my window or drive down the road to be overcome by God's awesome creation. But... in other areas, my eyes have become a bit dull... for lack of a better word.

Let's just say there are times when I don't see the beauty in all of God's creation. Man, for example. 

Something happens as we age... as we spend more time in this sin-darkened world... we tend to become accustomed to the ugly... the disappointments... the not-so-pretty stains on this otherwise beautiful world... that sometimes we forget to see the beauty altogether. We look right past it and dwell on the ugly. We have forgotten how to use our fresh eyes. 

But just imagine if we did. If we purposely chose to use fresh eyes to gaze on God's beauty all around us. Perhaps we'll see each new day as a gift (as it really is), never before lived, filled with new and exciting possibilities; each new encounter as a chance to see something fresh and admirable in the person that just yesterday tried our last nerve. Most importantly, we'll open our eyes and look for God everywhere and when we find Him, we will really see. 


See, I am doing a new thing! Now, it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 

As I think of this angelic child who reminded me to really see, I think of what a gift she is. Each day with her, we are learning something new about her. She is growing and thriving, and her bubbly personality is bursting through. It's as if day-by-day, moment-by-moment, a new layer is being unwrapped... like opening a present we have been given. It reminds me that the magic hasn't faded with my older kids. Each day with them, we are learning more about who they are and getting glimpses of who God created them to be. It's beautiful if we really look. We just have to look with fresh eyes!

Yes! Fresh eyes! It can be life-changing! It can change the way I look at the man I've spent half my life with... the way I look at my children, my family, my friends. With fresh eyes, I can leave behind my preconceived expectations... those intangible bars that keep my loved ones trapped in a box I've built around them, and I can look for something new. 

I can wipe my lens clean and look intently - purposely and prayerfully - for signs of our awesome Creator. Because He's there, everywhere we look, behind all that He's created and when we see Him, really see Him, it changes us. Drops us to our knees and changes the way we respond to others... to the world... to Him, all to His glory. 

So I'm moving forward, with fresh eyes and a full heart, and I'm asking you to join me. Let's pray together that God will open the eyes of our hearts so that we can really see Him and that together our enthusiasm for God's beauty all around us will draw others to His amazing love.


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picture source: pixabay

Saturday, 16 July 2016

The One Thing I Must Do This Summer... Fall Hopefully in Love


Summer is tricky for me. 

On the one hand, I'm free from the constraints of a schedule, free to do as I please I suppose, but on the other hand I'm free from the life-supporting role of a schedule. This freedom thing... it's a tricky thing. 

For these past few years, usually by the end of the year I'm in desperate need to be free, but with this long-sought freedom comes a new set of problems. 

I feel lost almost. 

Do you see my problem?  

I want to be able to toss that schedule through the window and embrace the lazy days of summer.  I want to regroup, refresh and refocus. But without a schedule, nothing really happens. I don't want it, yet I feel I need it. What a state I find myself in. 

Is it just me? 

And to add to all of that, the moment I lay back and do nothing... those little fears come creeping in. They start off as a whisper. 'Shouldn't you be doing something, right now?' 'You can't just lie here... there's stuff to be done.' 'You have a school room to clean out and reorganize... a year's worth of lessons to plan.' 'Not to mention all those projects you planned to do during summer.' Pretty soon those whispers crescendo into screams, insisting that I get up and do, and quit just being. 

So, I do what all aspiring life-planners do, I grab my journal and I start planning how to do it all... driven by my fear of the 'dis' state of life. 

Let me explain. 

If I don't attend to my unwritten yet ever-present to-do list, then I would most likely end up disorganized, which then plummets into discouragement. I become disappointed with my less than stellar efforts which leads to further disparaging emotions of discontent and dismay. 

This is a malignant state... the 'dis' state of life, for if left unchecked, I start to doubt... disbelieving the very promises of my Lord to supply ALL that I need. 

It's a cancer that must be stopped. 

You might be thinking, 'What is she talking about?' 'She must be mad?' 

Or you just might understand the dangerous coupling of our negative thoughts with our self-reliance and independence. That prideful part in all of us that says 'I got it all figured out', 'I know just what to do' and then plans and executes and gloats as we wait for our plans to unfold. 

But then they don't. And we end up floating in a sea of disappointment. Disappointment with people, with ourselves and even with God. 

So, typically whenever I've found myself lost, helplessly floating in a sea of disheartenment, I muster whatever little bit of courage I have left, pull myself together and promise myself that I'll try harder, plan better, do better. 

But, no more. 

This summer I've chosen a different path.

It has taken me a while... but I'm figuring out that planning and executing better next time can never guarantee my protection from the swell of disappointment that threatens to wash over me and drown my hope. I'm learning, my friends, that the only balm that soothes our disappointment is, quite simply, the uncaused, unreasonable, unconditional, always and forever love of our God.

I'm being encouraged by Deb over at Counting My Blessings to sit at the feet of Jesus, to just be still in His presence, and that, my friends, is what I'm going to do. I'm going to bask in the glow of His presence, get lost in His sea of immensity and allow Him to overwhelm me with His love. 

Yes, the one thing I must do this summer is to fall hope-fully in Love, for God is Love, and in Him we live and move and have our being



Now, if I allow my thoughts to wander I'll selfishly remember the promises... God's promises to give me so much more than I can imagine, a life rich and full, teeming with blessings and full of hope. That hope that is so desperately needed in this distressing world. 

But I stop, I don't want it to be about me; I just want to keep my eyes on God and be overcome by His love. But I can't help it, I get so excited when I think of how His love will flow out of me and bless those around me. How I would love my husband and children more, love my calling and purpose more, how love for God and his people will ooze out of my very pores. It's skin-tingling to imagine, but for now, I'm simply going to freely give myself to Him and trust Him with the rest.


What about you?
Are you free but not quite free? 
Enslaved by your own fears and expectations? 
Or have you fallen victim to the disease of disappointment and dismay? 
Why don't you join me? 
Break the cycle. 
Stop the endless sea of doing and 
embrace your God-given freedom to be who He has designed you to be. 
There is no time like now to bask in the glow of His love. 
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Just had to add this beautiful song!
Hope you enjoy it as you bask in the glow of His love!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Why a Homeschool Yearbook is Good for my Soul


Sometimes I forget. I come to a rest stop on a long, arduous journey... and I simply cannot remember anything else but the challenges, the failures... the not doing enough or being enough. I forget all that I have learned... how I have grown... the joys and thrills... and I simply feel very small... ill-equipped to continue on this not-for-the-weary journey.

If I stay in this place... consumed by my frailness in the light of the enormous task in front of me... I will not move. 

It's a dangerous place. It's a place where for a moment my eyes have fallen off of Jesus and lingered too long on self.

'What did I accomplish this year? Did I do enough? How will I continue?'

It's a place where I forget to remember God's faithfulness.

But thankfully, God in His mercy throws me a line... and pulls me out of the pit. That line is our homeschool yearbook. Sitting down to cull photos and events for our homeschool yearbook is nothing short of spiritual refreshment.

While I come face to face with my own shortcomings, I am wondrously and mercifully reminded of God’s lavish provisions.

We all have them. Milestones along life’s journey... rest stops where we stop and take stock. Moments to pause and reflect... birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and other times of celebration, or more obscure moments like the end of your first year on the job, in a new place or role. Whatever our milestone may be, it is an opportunity for us to look backwards, look inwards and look forward.

God is so wise. He knows the importance of remembering. There are countless examples in His word where He called His people to a time of remembrance. He knew that remembering is good for our souls.

And so, as I paused at the end of this school year, I remembered.

I remembered that I am not fit for this task, but God is. Yes, I heard the voices... the should haves and could haves... the wish we had... but as I lingered over each photograph... each memory... I remembered behind my beginning. I remembered why I do what I do... remembered Whose ‘well done’ I’m working for and Who empowers me to keep going. And I saw clearly and thankfully the tangible effects of God’s blessings in our lives... the accomplishments... the joys... the thrills and yes even the blessings of the challenges. I remembered the peace that remains even when days get long and hard, the comfort of knowing that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him and the promise of His power to those of us who are weak.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and for me - one who shies away from pictures - it is worth a thousand reasons to say thanks. I look at the picture of my daughter sitting at the computer completely engrossed in the book she is writing, and I give thanks. I look at the pictures of my son working on a robot he’s building and then subsequently winning third place in a science fair he chose to enter, and I give thanks. I see my children happily working on a puzzle together, or look at the 'house of truth' we finished when we completed our Christian worldview series, and I give thanks. I find so many reasons to give thanks when I remember.

Yes, working on our homeschool yearbook humbles me, brings me face to face with my weaknesses, reminds me of God’s unwavering presence, protection and peace in our lives and fills my heart with gratitude.

So, I don’t stay in that place. That place where I fall painfully short of my expectations and stumble under the weight of my responsibilities.

I climb out of the pit, and I readjust my focus.

I look backward at all God has done, I look inward and remember His Spirit within me and I look forward in anticipation of what He will continue to do as He displays His glory in our lives.

So what about you? 

Maybe your rescue line is not a homeschool yearbook. Perhaps it’s creating a scrapbook of your journey thus far, whatever that journey may be, or it may be as simple as peering at some old photographs, or reading some old journal entries, what ever it may be, God wants you to stop and remember.

So go ahead my friend, take some time. Choose to purposefully remember all that God has done for you and His promise never to leave you. It will fill your heart with overflowing gratitude and hope and praise. Try it and you’ll see... it’s really good for the soul.

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This post also shared at Amy's blog: Busy Boy's Brigade, a wonderful site for all things homeschool. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Three Sure-Fire Ways to Glow in the Dark


As a lamp magnifies the light within, so as followers of Christ, we are called to magnify Christ by our lives. We do not live as those without hope, and it is how we manage minor, grating annoyances or major life crises that serve to either point to or away from our living hope

Sometimes, if you are like me, we fail to shine for Christ. In Part 1, we looked at two possible reasons we miss the mark in the dark places of our lives.

But there is more to the story. Thankfully, God will never reject a broken and repentant heart, and when we seek Him, He gladly empowers us to light up the darkness. 

But how do we do it? How do we live so that Christ appears big and our lives shine brightly for Him - even in the dark? 

The answers, found throughout God's word, are refreshingly simple. In fact, you may balk at their simplicity, and wonder, 'Is that really all there is to it?' But friends, these three ways are clear and unmistakable yet profoundly powerful when lived out in a Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-filled life. If you choose to follow them you will shine forth as gold. 

Choose a golden attitude.
'Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had'. (Philippians 2:8)   
'Do everything without grumbling and complaining. Do everything readily and cheerfully - no bickering, or second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night...' (Philippians 2:14-16a) 
'And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome, but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.' (2 Timothy 2:24)
Use a golden tongue.
'I waited and waited and waited for God. At last He looked; finally He listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn't slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God.' (Psalm 40:1-3) 
'Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.' (Ephesians 4:29) 
'Through Him, therefore, let us at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name.' (Hebrews 13:15)
Let our praises in the storms of life draw others to our Refuge, and make the most of every opportunity to encourage one another

 Follow the golden rule. 
'Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that's charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.
I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You'll never - I promise - regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we're at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.' (Luke 6: 31-36)
'Do to others as you would like them to do to you.' (Luke 6:31)

Three simple ways - yes, but easy? No. Impossible, in fact, when we attempt them in our own strength. Oh yeah, some days we master them, but inevitably we fall short. Thankfully, our Father in heaven has given us everything we need for life and godly living. We simply abide in Him and rely on His power to shine His light through us. 

When we stay close to the Light, trusting in His power and purposes for our lives and continually seeking His face, we would naturally shine more and more as we reflect Him in all that we do. And as we glow in the dark places we'd invite others to enter into the sweet fellowship we enjoy with our God. A fellowship filled with peace for the present and security for the future.  



************
What about you? 

Has your glow faded? Do you fail to magnify Christ in your life... to shine for Him?

I invite you to join me in taking some time to examine our hearts.

Perhaps the dross of repeated sin is clouding our sparkle. We may be struggling with pride - either consumed by self and its comfort or eagerly desiring the pat on the back or the ego-boosting 'I couldn't have done it without you'. Our passions may be divided, and perhaps we have placed God neatly in the box we have designed for Him. 

Let's pause and reflect and pray unceasingly to the Lord, asking him to shine His light on our hearts, to search us and see if there's any offensive way in us, and to lead us in the way everlasting. Only then can we shine for Him. 


If on the other hand, you are still groping in the darkness, exhausted from trying to light your own way, I invite you to read the good news here or see an outline here. My prayer is that you will accept God's invitation to ignite the flame within you. 

Jesus said, "I am the light of this world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) 


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Today, as you read this, I pray that God will equip us with power anew to shine forth as gold and spread the light of His mercy and love to this sin-darkened world. 
'Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.' (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Failing to Shine

I wake up to the stench. The smelly odor permeates the whole house and seeps under my skin. I can feel discouragement sinking in. 

I walk gingerly out of my room, still not quite prepared for the full onslaught. And there I see them, relaxed - apparently oblivious to the foul smell (left by their pet) and their responsibility to clean it up. 

I'm battling hard now - trying to remain calm... to shine, but one 'off the cuff' remark from my teen-aged son sends me over the edge. 

My voice rises as I vent my frustration, and the real stench sets in. 

To read more of this post, where I share about my failure to shine, please join me here over at SunSparkleShine

SunSparkleShine is one of my favorite sites to visit. It is bright and sunny and well, sparkly, and it encourages me to spread the shine. Further more, it is written by one of my favorite people, my sister, Marva. 

If you are like me and you fail to shine as well, please be sure to read the rest of the post. There's hope, my friends. And please look around Marva's site while you're there, you'll see why I'm so proud of her. 

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Why I Encourage My Children to Fight


This post is written in honor of my father who was fascinated with the human mind and embraced our amazing God-given ability to stand outside of ourselves and examine our thoughts.

I wish I could tell him. 
Tell him how the spark that he started when he was just a young man is still burning. 
Tell him all that I’m learning about the mind and the power of the choices we make and that the more I learn, the more I stand in awe of our Creator. 
Tell him how I'm choosing to live in his legacy... learning how to choose my destination when I embark on a journey of my thoughts... and tell him why I'm encouraging my children to fight. 

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I’m sitting on the front-line, watching as the battle unfolds before my eyes. 
She's grappling with her fear of failure yet again; he's in the middle of a clash, searching for the courage to stand for the right. The struggle continues, day in and day out; it never stops. 

I want to reach in and rescue them. To snatch them from the battlefield, raise them high on my shoulders and carry them to a safe place. 

I wish I could... could protect them from the life scars that run deep, for I know how painfully open we are... how vulnerable. Yes, I've been there... battle-weary and scarred, an unwitting victim of my own negative thoughts; I'm marred by their paralyzing effects. 

But as much as my heart bleeds for them, I am powerless to crawl into the recesses of their minds and fight for them. This is a battle we each must fight alone. 
Life is war. And the main battles are fought at the level of desires, not deeds. (John Piper)
No, I can't rescue them, but I can teach them. Teach them to recognise the attacks, show them the weapons at their disposal, and encourage them to fight. 

I tell them it starts so simply... with cunning innocence. A random thought flutters by, alights and then stays for a while. You begin to muse on it... to mull it over in your mind. Before you know what hits you, its snowballing effects have left you defeated, discouraged, angry, resentful, entitled... speeding on a runaway train headed straight for destruction. 
"Whenever you get on a train of thought, always check your ticket to see where it takes you!" Daniel Paterson
But it doesn't have to be this way. We can jump off that train and choose another. God has designed us to observe our own thoughts, 'catch those that are bad, and get rid of them.'  (Switch on Your Brain - Dr. Caroline Leaf)


Sadly, we misjudge the terrible danger of our irresponsible thoughts and words and all too often we lose the battle. Many of us trudge through life dragging behind us the paralyzing effects of our own destructive thinking. 'The importance of capturing those thoughts cannot be underestimated because research shows that the vast majority of mental and physical illness comes from our thought life...' (Switch on Your BrainDr. Caroline Leaf)

How then can I spare my children this pain? 

Thanks be to God, in Christ Jesus there is hope... there is always hope. For God has given us the power to choose. 

And so, I encourage my children to choose which thoughts they allow to have lasting power in their lives. I remind them that our thoughts have tremendous power for good or bad. That they can search through their minds for their 'daily round of thinking and ferret out the enemies' (Psychology Magazine 1957). That they can choose to replace those toxic thoughts with countless others... thoughts that lead to life and not to death.
"Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!"  Deuteronomy 30:19
And when they come to the end of themselves, as we all do, powerless to resist the relentless lure of their destructive thoughts, I remind them that they do not fight alone. 
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 
I urge them to put on the whole armor of God and fight, to destroy one idea with another, to eradicate the lies of the enemy with repeated use of the life-saving promises and truths of God's word. And I remind them that we have been given a spirit of power, and in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us, for God has provided a way out of every temptation

So, I stand alongside my children in the fight, and I raise the battle cry. We are living in trying times, battles within and battles without, but take heart, my children, be of good courage, for our God has overcome this world and one day we will stand with Him in glory. But until then, we fight, fully assured that no enemy or deceiver will ever prevail against us

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3 

What about you?

Are you plagued by your negative thoughts and their dire consequences? 
It's time to fight! 
Immerse yourself in the word of God, take up the sword of the spirit, and let His power 'transform you by the renewing of your mind'.