“This is your brain on…”

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“This is your brain on…”

For those of us growing up in the 80’s, we know this phrase all too well.  The commercial for a “Drug Free America” that began with a picture of a whole egg: “If this is your brain…” then they crack the egg and fry it in a pan. “Then this is your brain on drugs.”

The brain unraveled.

This last weekend I attended a seminar/retreat on Love and Joy (and getting more of it in life!).  The instructor, Christy Osborn, was a corporate trainer for over 20 years. She utilized studies of the brain to understand and train/retrain individuals in the corporate world.

In summary, (or if you remember from science class) your brain communicates through a system of neurons and dendrites. Thoughts are neurotransmitters (chemicals) that travel from the neuron and through/out the dendrite. Picture a tennis ball at one end (neuron) and a stem coming out of it with a bunch of tree branches at the other end (dendrite).

When a negative thought happens (and test subjects were asked to dwell on negative things), the neurotransmitter (chemical) travels from neuron, down the stem and out through the dendrite where it makes paths to other nerve cells.

When your mind dwells on negative thoughts, it produces toxic neurotransmitters.

And it isn’t pretty–

Your brain on disappointment

Your brain on sorrow

Your brain in anger

Your brain in contempt

Your brain on bitterness

Your brain on unforgiveness–

Picture that tennis ball as a dried up prune and the extending branch as a dead and gnarly, blackened, spindly thatch of thorns.

It is a sickness that translates into our lives.

My sister calls this her “bad berry theory in management”—Those people who arrive to work in terrible moods, never smiling, always complaining, gossiping and grumping about everything. Their negativity spreads like a mold or a cancer through the workplace. It happens in life and in our bodies. When we dwell in the negative, our immune response decreases, our bodies are weakened and our pain tolerance levels decrease. We are more prone to illnesses when under stress; when someone dies, when we dwell in the negative.

And just a little more bad news—as it would turn out, those negative thoughts reproduce like a cancer. They stack up on themselves like a heaping, stinking pile of rotten produce.

Negativity perpetuates negativity.

Of course, we all will experience negative thoughts from time to time (the loss of a job, a divorce, losing a loved one, etc.,); the secret is to not get stuck there!

Ready for the good news?

Positive thoughts also reproduce themselves.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

For positive thoughts, the same process occurs with the neurotransmitters traveling from the neuron to the dendrites–

Your brain on joy

Your brain in compassion

Your brain in forgiveness

Your brain in acceptance

Your brain in encouragement

Your brain in love!

Picture a robust golden apple and a stem emerging from it with branches loaded with a bounty of beautiful, shiny green leaves.

These positive neurotransmitters are like a shot of pure joy straight to the heart. They result in emboldening the immune system, increasing your tolerance for pain and strengthening your whole body and mind.

And ready for a little more good news?! (A good practice for that idea of MORE positive!) 😉

“I’m trading my sorrows. And I’m trading my shame. And I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord.” Israel Houghton & New Breed

Remember that stinking, rotten pile?– It can be brought back to life!

 

The power of HOPE.

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5)

We have a God who knows everything we’re going through.  He knows our hearts and our minds. He created us! And with His power in us, there is nothing man can do to us that He can’t transform to good.

“In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (Psalm 118:5)

For the doubters, unbelievers or many who are just stuck in the negativity, there is a place you can take it all and be changed.

“Anything is possible if a person believes”…“I do believe, but help me with my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Take your burdens to Jesus-He can handle your disappointments, your discouragements, your hurt, your pain, your unforgiveness and your unbelief.

“We take every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

With his power, given to you by the Holy Spirit, you can overcome; you can trade in your sorrow, your hopelessness and your pain for hope, love and joy.

Retrain your mind by taking a negative experience and locating the hope in it and the negative can transform to positive!

How does this work? Here are a couple of examples–Knowing that with Jesus, though you sorrow for your loved one who left this world too soon; you find hope in knowing you will see them again!

Or, spreading hope in the walk of life by being there for a friend who is diagnosed with cancer. Helping guide her because you survived that same diagnosis.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Hope is knowing that:

When chaos surrounds you, there is One that can calm the stormy seas (Matthew 8:24, Mark 4:35, Luke 8:22)

When things look their darkest, there is One who can light your way (John 8:12)

There is a safe place you can lay all your grief, unforgiveness, shame, anger, bitterness, negativity and contempt

There is nothing new or negative in this world that you can think up that He doesn’t have the power to transform for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)

Picture Jesus Christ betrayed, battered, bloodied and wearing that awful, thatchy, spindly crown of thorns, taking his last breath hanging on the Cross, paying the final debt for mankind and thereby enabling us all to live free from the negativity of sin–

That, my friends, is your brain on HOPE.

Merry Christmas

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So this is Christmas.

We spent the last three days driving anywhere between 25 and 85 m.p.h. as we maneuvered my 4 cylinder Toyota, fully loaded with presents and baggage, from sunny Arizona through drought-brown hills of California toward our destination—Vancouver, Washington for Christmas. As my furry kids (two kitties) curl up beneath my bare tree in Arizona with only my cat sitter (and lovely friend!) for company, I realize this is the first Christmas in years and years that I have not been “home” in Colorado to celebrate.

My eyes brim and my heart clinches a little.

I keep the shrinking “Grinch” heart at bay.

I think back on the events leading up to our road adventure on this marvelous holiday and feel so blessed. The lovely Thanksgiving with family and the visits from family and the friends we have celebrated with already. Gifts and good-tidings; celebrations and holiday parties, home-made treats and cups of cheer overflowing—Christmas is the best time of year!

Then there is the Post Office…I don’t EVER wait until days before Christmas to mail, (nor do I recommend this!) but I had a little book-give-away to deliver and had a VERY close call with a “Grinch” in the parking lot just days before our departure. He almost stole my joy.

But I know what Christmas is.

I was leaving my two hour post office escapade, (heart determined to be kind to all who were braving this holiday faux pas,) when a gentleman just beginning his adventure, nearly swiped my bumper. He laid on his horn to get parked in an open space 2.4 seconds sooner than if he would’ve waited for me to inch forward behind the two grey-haired drivers I followed out. All this so he could arrive those 2.4 seconds earlier in into the two hour line in the lobby that awaited him.

My “Grinch” heart shrunk a little as I thought of several choice Christmas carols I’d like to yell at him: “Oh Holy–”

But I know what Christmas is.

I breathed deep and forgave him, knowing the lengths of enjoyment that lay before him with a “honking attitude” like he harbored.

Torrents of rain the night before we left awakened us through the night. We looked forward to grabbing our hot Dunkin’ Donut’s coffee before hitting the road. Avoiding the 15 car drive-thru line, we hoofed it to the entrance. On our way out, we fell silent passing an unkempt man wearing shorts and a light coat, holding a small grocery bag and seeking shelter out of the rain. My heart clinched and I pushed my sunglasses higher on my nose.

I think I know what Christmas is.

We still departed on our journey, but feeling pretty heavy–discovering he had spent the rain-drenched night outside. We left him with some home baked zucchini bread and money.

We ran out of clean clothes along the way, slept on some seriously rock hard mattresses and ate one-too-many continental breakfasts, but we are so blessed with what we have.

We think we know what Christmas is.

Though I am not with my family or at my “home,” I prepare to spend this blessed holiday with my fiancés family. Months ago, I planned a surprise for him. Before our Christmas Eve stop, I arranged for a “starter tree” to greet us and a few sparkling ornaments with which to decorate it. The look of surprise and wonder on his face at the discovery was equal to any child’s on Christmas day! It was pure wonderful!

I am feeling Christmas again.

And, as we prepare to hit the road again; washing our underwear, unpacking and re-packing, wrapping packages late into Christmas Eve, I know Christmas is MORE than family, sparkling decorations, packages and surprises from a jolly, fat, red-suited man.

I think of other travelers, long ago, who were “displaced” from their homes on this magical night.

No grouchy, horn-blowing Grinch can take Christmas from me. Those long ago travelers brought a gift to me and to all who believe.

I know what Christmas is.

The Charlie Brown’s Christmas special is one of my all-time fave’s. Linus wraps up nicely exactly what Christmas is…
Charlie Brown: Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.

[moves toward the center of the stage]

Linus Van Pelt: Lights, please.

[a spotlight shines on Linus]

Linus Van Pelt: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”

[Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown]

Linus Van Pelt: That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

(from www.imdb.com Charlie Brown Christmas Quotes)

 

For the horn- blower, for the Grinch, for the Dunkin-Donut’s rain man, for all people on all the earth–

–Wishing you all a magical and Merry Christmas, where ever you are!