Monday, November 22, 2010

With Thankful Hearts

(This week we are sharing five things relating to our journey with autism which we are most grateful to God for. We encourage you to share the ways that God has blessed you also by posting a comment. Each of us is gifted, loved and blessed by God in a unique way. We are sure that everyone will be encouraged by what we all share.)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
-Psalm 100: 4-5

Jessica's List:

1. God- Without the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, I would be completely, 100% lost as to how to help my child. At best, I would have a shot in the dark. God's unfailing love and forgiveness have been a constant. There have been many times where I've wanted to give in to the temptation to just try things out of desperation to help my son or felt lost from frustration or sadness. God has always been faithful and helped me to get back up again each and every time.

2. Matthew- Through all of this I have the most amazing, sweet, resilient little boy to cherish, teach and love. He brings so much happiness, love and joy to my life.

3. Being a witness to miracles-Every step forward is appreciated so much more, and is such a source of hope for me. Autism is so very hard sometimes, but the rewards of seeing my son reach a new milestone are truly amazing.

4. A community of autism moms-This is a club that I never wanted to belong to, but is filled with the most determined and inspiring people anyone could hope to meet. I love the way we support, help and strengthen one another.

5. The change in my heart- Having a child with autism is continuously challenging on so many levels. As I learn, heal and grow, I get to know God better every day. I am also better at relating to others who are suffering and have a much greater capacity for love and compassion. In relation to this, I am also so grateful for any chance to use my pain and also my victories to help and encourage other mothers.

Nicole's List:

1. God- I am so thankful that you, God, continue to amaze me. On days where I just don't feel like I can give any more, you surprise me with the comfort and the motivation that I need. I am so thankful that I know you and know the power that you have over everything in this world.

2. Sean's Voice: I know there are days where I ask for so much God. Days when I beg and plead for you to help my son be able to hold a conversation with me. Days when I bargain with you to help my children form that brotherly relationship that other brothers have. Today God, I want you to know how thankful I am just to hear the sound of my son's voice. Whether it's scripting, a one word phrase or one of his phenomenal sentences I never thought I'd hear, I thank you for every sound he makes.

3. Friends: I have to give kudos to you God for giving me the friends who don't have children on the spectrum. Yes, they may not totally "get it" however, they help me appreciate things in a whole new light. Thank you for giving me friends and neighbors I can lean on, cry with and see the miracles that you do with my son.

4. My husband and my family: I thank you God for giving me a husband who is hard working and a wonderful father. Thank you for giving him the heart and the passion to want to help his children and most importantly want to spend time with them. I also thank you for blessing me with a family that is always there to lift us up when we need it.

5. Sean's Twin Brother, Hunter: I'll never forget the moment you let me know that I was having twins God. The excitement, the fear, the happiness, the fear :). I was so honored that you trusted me with two at one time. After Sean was diagnosed with autism, it was extremely difficult for me to accept the fact that one had autism and the other didn't. Then I was concerned what that would do to their "twin relationship." Yet you never failed me. You gave me Hunter, an amazing little boy who wants nothing but to help his brother be happy. You helped him form an exceptional "twin relationship" with Sean that they both treasure. You never cease to amaze me God.

We hope that you all have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving and look forward to resuming our study of Battlefield of the Mind next Wednesday!

Jessica, Nicole and Chrissy

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Let's Never Quit on God

(Below are Nicole's thoughts for Chapter 3 of Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter as well. Feel free to leave a comment, question or scripture in the comment section below each post. Let's dig deep and join together to fight this battle!)

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. -Galations 6:9

In Chapter 3, Don't Give Up, Joyce Meyer encourages us to stay strong and never give up. We are reminded of Galations 6:9 and how Paul encourages us to do the same thing. How hard it is though, to keep pressing forward when we see no results or no end in sight. I think about my child having autism. On the days were I see some sort of praise, accomplishment or hope it's easy for me not to give up on this battle in my mind. However, on the days where we have a lot of stimming, behaviors and no connecting, Satan has lots of room to take over with negative thoughts and worries.

Joyce reminds us of Isaiah 43:2...

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you. -Isaiah 43:2

In other words, God is with us every step of the way. I'm sure you've heard the saying of God will never give you too much that you can't handle. That's exactly what Isaiah 43:2 is saying while letting us know that God is with us through it all. On page 33, Joyce writes "The way God helps us make spiritual progress is by being with us to strengthen and encourage us to 'keep on keeping on' in rough times." We just have to believe.

Once we've made our choice to trust in God, sometimes we have to do so on a daily basis. Here Joyce shares with us Deuteronomy 30:19...

I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you that I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live. -Deuteronomy 30:19

Here is where Joyce teaches us to make that daily decision of following the flesh or following the Spirit. We are told how easy it is to follow the flesh because we've been doing so our entire lives. However, now that we want to follow the Spirit, we need to make this choice daily. I think about what Joyce says on page 34 "When we begin to feel that the battle of the mind is just too difficult and that we aren't going to make it, then we must be able to cast down that kind of thinking and choose to think that we are going to make it!" As parents of children with autism, I think we need to write this quote down and carry it with us throughout the day. It's so easy to fall down to the negative thinking. What will my son be like when he's older? What if he never gets better? Is it my fault that he has autism? What if he doesn't want to play with the other children? Will he ever say a word in his life? We've all been there. The scary part to all of this is that our negative thoughts are like a snowball effect. The longer we think them, the more negative thoughts come into our minds. I believe it's important in moments like this that we not only cast the negative thoughts out of our minds quickly but that we bombard our minds with the positive things as well. As Joyce says on page 43 "Our thoughts become our words." Let's start thinking more positive thoughts so that our children hear more positive words. If all we're thinking is more negative then positive, our mood will be negative, our words will be negative and our children will feel it.

I love how Joyce shares with us the idea behind God being our "computer programmer." In other words, he has to take a life full of the wrong way to think and reprogram us to think the positive thoughts. It takes time but she reminds us that he's the best "computer programmer" ever.

I think one of the best things that Joyce included in this chapter is the section called "Turn and Take Possession!" Here we read about Moses when he pointed out to the Isrealites that it's only a short journey to the Promised Land but it's taken them forty years to find it.

"The Lord our God said to us in Horeb, You have dwelt long enough on this mountain. Turn and take up your journey and go to the hill country of the Amorites....Behold, I have set the land before you; go in and take possession of the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their descendants after them." -Deutoronomy 1:6-8

Joyce then asks us..."have you dwelt long enough on the same mountain? Have you spent forty years trying to make an eleven day trip?" I think I can be honest with you and share with you my answer. I have. I am stuck on a mountain and turning what should be a short amount of time into a long journey. It's time for me to make that daily choice, sometimes hourly choice, to get the negative thoughts out, never give up, have faith and trust in God that if my worries would come true that he would do what he promises in Isaiah 43:2 and I will not be overwhelmed, the fire will not burn me and it will definitely not overtake me.

Dear Lord,

As we come together to learn how to win this crazy battle between negative thinking and positive thinking, we thank you for always being there with us. We ask that you help us remember when a negative thought is overtaking us that we push it out of our mind immediately and bring in positive thoughts. We know that no matter what is brought our way, you have a bigger plan and are with us every step of the way. And we ask for your forgiveness when we allow the negative thinking to multiply in our minds instead of bringing it to you.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

You Are What You Think

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 2 of Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter as well. Feel free to leave a comment, question or even scripture on the comment section below this post. Let's dig deep and join to together to fight this battle!)

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he...
(Proverbs 23:7)

Throughout this chapter, Joyce Meyer points out the parallel between our the quality of our thoughts and the state of our physical life. Aside from the verse cited above, the very first point she makes is that we can't "have a positive life and a negative mind" (p. 27).

As I reflect on the battles in my own mind, I can see clear patterns of how this works. If I am not vigilant, my thoughts and will automatically follow how I may feel physically or emotionally. If I am tired, it is easy to let my thoughts go down with my energy level. Before I know it, if I'm not careful I will be talking myself out of feeling productive. If I am feeling sad or anxious, my thoughts can spiral downward into all the reasons why I will fail at something or why I should not have hope. Also, if my mind is unoccupied, a random suggestion or thought can derail my focus and in certain situations lead to negative thinking. It is no coincidence that we feel attacked in our thoughts when we are feeling physically or emotionally vulnerable. As Nicole pointed out last week, our enemy has studied us carefully and knows our weaknesses.

The weapons Joyce mentions are praise, prayer and the word of God. We've heard the expression in sports that the best offense is a good defense. If we are going to win the battle in our mind, we've got to take action beforehand to make sure we are headed in the right direction with our thoughts.

Let's start with praise-I have heard that we can choose to either start our day saying "Good morning Lord!" or "Good Lord, it's morning...". I find that it helps me to begin the day with some sort of blessing like this. Like Nicole, I am also homeschooling my son with autism. This has been a wonderful blessing for our entire family and is truly an honor. However, there are days when I'm tired, not feeling well or just not always as motivated as I'd like to be. We start the day singing "This is the day that the Lord has made" (VeggieTales version). As soon as the song starts playing, he's on my lap smiling at me while I sing. Each and every time it makes me smile inside and so glad that we have this special time to learn together.

Prayer- It really was a good reminder for me to read that we can't conquer our thoughts on our own. No matter how much we strive or how many good intentions we have, there is no way to do this without God. In our prayers we can ask the Holy Spirit to guide us and show us where and how to improve. God alone can give us the grace we need, this has to be a cooperative effort.

God's word-Throughout all of our bible studies, the importance of staying in the word is always highlighted. This really makes so much sense in the context of this book. By taking the time to renew our minds and meditate on God's word, we are in the key position to advance in this battle. For one thing, renewing our minds keeps us from feeling spiritually depleted and vulnerable to attack in this way. For another, we can fill our minds with good thoughts, God's thoughts, so that there is no room for negative thoughts to take up residence.

It is so important for us to understand how this works so that we can stay focused on our God-given work and not lose our peace. Joyce also reminds us that our actions and speech are the fruits of our thoughts. As I mentioned before, none of us should feel like a failure because we've tried and tried but just can't fix our thought life. We really do need the guidance and grace from the Holy Spirit. This is something that can take time to undo and heal, so we need to be patient with ourselves and trust God fully. He wants more than anything for us to lead positive lives with positive thoughts and won't give up on us until we do.

Bible verses:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
-Romans 12:2

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
-Romans 8:14

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. -Ephesians 2: 8-9

LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
you have done wonderful things,
things planned long ago.
-Isaiah 25:1

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Spiritual Weapons For Your Mind

(Below are Nicole's thoughts for the Introduction and Chapter 1 of Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter as well. Feel free to leave a comment, question or even scripture on the comment section below this post. Let's dig deep and join to together to fight this battle!)

Joyce Meyer begins Battlefield of the Mind with this scripture in the Introduction....

For the weapons of our warfare are not physical (weapons of flesh and blood), but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds. (Inasmuch as we) refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the (true) knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). -2 Corinthians 10:4,5

Chapter 1 begins with...

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood (contending only with physical opponents), but against the despotisms, against the powers, against (the master spirits who are) the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. -Ephesians 6:12

Both of these scriptures prove that Joyce Meyer is 100% correct. Our mind is a battlefield and we need to find our weapons quickly. We really don't understand how powerful our thoughts are.

"For as he (a person) thinks in his heart, so is he." -Proverbs 23:7

So, what are you thinking? What thoughts hold you captive all throughout the day, every day? Sometimes at night? For me, it's my children, my family. Usually it pertains to worrying about something. Mainly, autism. Sure, I can easily jump on the band wagon of having positive thoughts and not worrying. But like Joyce tells us in Chapter 1, Satan is patient. He knows my weaknesses and how to get me. Now I need my spiritual weapons.

Our three strongest weapons are the Word of God, prayer and praise. These three weapons can destroy Satan's plans. Here's the key...we need to spend as much time as possible in God's Word. Joyce encourages us to do this through "preaching, teaching, books, tapes, seminars, and private Bible study. But we must "abide" (continue) in the Word until it becomes revelation given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Continuing is important." She then reminds us of Mark 4:24..."The measure (of thoughts and study) you give (to the truth you hear) will be the measure (of virtue and knowledge) that comes back to you." The more time we spend knowing his Word the quicker we are to praise him and to pray to him.

Joyce also tells us about how Jesus used his spiritual weapons to fight the devil's temptations in the wilderness for 40 days. I remember hearing about this in church when I was little. (Luke 4:1-13) I remember thinking how important it was that I memorized scripture so that when I die if Satan tries to trick me I can fight him off and go straight to Heaven. What I didn't realize then that Joyce has shown me now is that we are in our wilderness now. Now is the time for us to know God's Word so that we know when a thought is from the devil and when it's the Holy Spirit nudging us. We need to pray to God asking for his help and praise Him for all of the wonderful things that are happening in our lives. We need to use our spiritual weapons to defeat Satan.

One of the biggest strongholds that Satan has on me is my family, particularly my children. He knows how to whisper my deepest fears at just the right moment to keep me from doing what God needs for me to do. I homeschool my son who has autism. Every Sunday night, I plan my entire week of schooling and usually come Monday morning I'm motivated and ready to go. Little by little, different thoughts slowly come in to my mind....he's not really learning anything from you, you're not that great of a teacher, he's totally blocking you out of his world...why are you even trying, you're tired...take the day off. Little by little he takes over my thoughts until finally I've given up. I have no patience. I'm frustrated. I question whether I should be homeschooling my child in the first place. (Enter the spiritual weapons here.) I pray. I ask God to show me if I'm doing the right thing. I praise him and thank him for giving me the ability to stay home and homeschool him. I ask him for help to reach my son. I pick up my Bible, read a devotion online or talk to a fellow believer friend and I'm ready. I'm ready for this war in my mind. I can't let Satan take over my thoughts, my mood and who I am. It's at this point I truly see the blessings in my son. I see him make gains in his academics that he's been struggling to do. Sure it may not be the gains I wanted to see by now but it's a gain and he's moving forward.

We have to remember that Satan knows us. He knows our weaknesses and when it's best to attack us. However, we also have to remember how mighty our God is and that he's fighting this war with us. It is so important that we do not let Satan win this battle in our minds. He's tricky and he can make anything look good even when it's not. The longer we let it continue, the stronger his hold gets on us.

Remember what Joyce writes on page 23..."...Jesus always stands ready to fulfill His promise to set the captives free. He will walk us across the finish line of victory in any area if we are willing to go all the way through it with Him."

Thank you for giving us a heart to want to know more about you and what we can do for you. We know that our minds are subjected to Satan on a daily, hourly and by the second basis and we ask that you help us continue to dive into your Word so that Satan may not have any hold of our minds.
We ask this in Your Name,