Thursday, 17 November 2016

Our annual retreat: How to change your mind!!!!

Our annual retreat is always a special time and this year it was held at a really special place, Hunterstoun, here in Hogsback itself. It was gently lead by Leon Van Niekerk. The focus was on taming our our thoughts and emotions for in order to experience spiritual growth. At a time were so many disturbing world and country events are stealing our joy, this quiet time was just what the doctor ordered to give us perspective.

We started off on Friday afternoon by exploring God's plan for spiritual growth and how our thoughts are game changers. We learned that it is not true that just because we thought of it it has to be true! Many of our thoughts come from a position of fear and fear is the opposite of faith. God did not wire our brains for fear, He created us to love. Fear has no place!

Our brains consist of 3 distinct areas ( emotions--> thinking--> Doing) with a logical process and we have to constantly be aware of how we allow our emotions to create toxic thoughts that results in negative deeds that make us feel guilty and so the cycle continues. To be closer to God we need to break that endless loop!!

We explored the principles of spiritual growth by first looking at what it is (Phil 3:13-14 and Gal 5:24-25). We reflected on that we were created in God's image (Gen 1:27) and that we need to choose carefully every day (Josh 24:15). The mind was created for good (Eccles 7:29) so that we have no need to fear at all.

So how did the mind get so corrupted (2 Cor 11:3) and how can we allow God to renew our minds (Rom 12:2). we have to constantly be aware that our thoughts define who we are (Prov 23:7) and if we want to break out of this negative cycle of toxic thoughts we need to focus our minds on Christ (1 cor 2:16). We have to commit to a process of re-organising our minds because God gave us the ability to choose.

In the first session on Saturday, we started by identifying our toxic thoughts and emotions and learned that toxic thoughts are thoughts that trigger negative and anxious emotions, which produce biochemicals that cause the body to stress. They are stored in our minds, as well as in the cells of our body. Examples of this is:

  • Worries
  • Could-have, would-have and if-only thoughts
  • Swirling thoughts in our head at the moment
  • Consuming thoughts
  • Replaying things over and over in your mind
We then send some quiet time to identify our personal toxic thoughts (Matt 6:25-34) and for some of us this was really painful ground to step on! We thought about (and listed) what the deep rooted origins of our destructive thoughts are and what we are worrying about. Through this we realised that we miss out on life because of our worries. This text also give us guidance towards spiritual growth. 

This brought us to a way by which we can demolish toxic thoughts by replacing them with truthful spiritual thoughts. To demolish them we looked at how thoughts impact on so many things,  brain and body, our mental health and spiritual development (see Deut 20:19, Ps 34:11-16, Prov 3:7-8, Deut 5:9). Thoughts can make us physically ill and we therefore need to let go of all the baggage that are creating all these toxic thoughts. This is easier said than done but a practical idea is to maybe write a letter to the person that caused you pain. We do not need to give it to them but just committing it to paper and maybe burning it will be a physical way of letting go of what is keeping us mentally captive. So how do we let go from a spiritual perspective?
  • Start with: Prov 4:20-22
  • Rewrite events with positive thinking: Fil 4:8
  • Replace the effects of crushing thoughts with the words of God James 1:21
  • Our perspective counts with Christ the vine John 15:5
  • Through meditation Josh 1:8
  • Consequence Ps 46:10 
We then created a personal plan to implement thoughts and emotions towards spiritual growth. The following scriptures guides us in identifying 5 things to implement
  • Col 3:15-17; Col 4:2-6; Phil 4:4-9; Prov 4:20-23 
We used the following questions to guide us:
  • Awareness: Which thought (sometimes) get stuck in my mind that I want to address? And how do I want them to be part of me
  • Thinking through: What (which thoughts) would I rather focus on mentally?
  • Focus positively: How can I remind myself of these (GO(O)D) thoughts/truths daily? 
  • Take action: What could I do to re-enforce new thoughts and express them (personally, with friends and family, strangers....)
We concluded this practical, inspirational session with a morning service on Sunday at the St Patrick Chapel were Leon summed it all up for us in this wonderful verse: 

We want to thank Norma for organising this time out for us and for Leon Van Niekerk for leading us in such a gentle way through sacred ground! 


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