Creative Writing: The Shepherd’s Work

It’s been years since the sharp blade cut open her heart, since her pain stained her perception of all things. It’s been years, and life has continued, breathing in, breathing out.

It’s exhausting work, this breathing in and breathing out while intentionally chewing on the venom that builds scar tissue day by day. But this is her ammunition against love, her protection against pain. It’s the armour she purposefully puts on every morning. 

She is a bitter old woman when I meet her, and my heart leaps towards her, but the carefully constructed armour keeps me clearly at bay.

And I watch as the scar tissue grows thicker every day, creeping up all the way to her throat. It threatens to kill her, but it is still her safety net–ammunition against love, protection against pain.

The Shepherd in me, He is relentless, outrageous, thickheaded in His pursuit of her. So I let Him take the lead. He is the hand, and I am the glove, moving at the rhythm of His love.

I  believe His love through me to be a powerful ointment against her chosen venom, so I show up.  I show up when the armour is impenetrable because the Shepherd shows up. I show up day in and day out, choosing to look past the venom, because the Shepherd shows up day in and day out, choosing to look past the venom. Day in and day out, the Shepherd with skin and bones. 

Eventually, the Shepherd’s love creates a minuscule crack in the armour, and He skillfully reaches His hand through the scars into the very heart of her.  He breathes life into her, gently rubbing the scar thinner and thinner. And her heart, it begins to let go of the venom, and it swells with life, breathing in, breathing out.

Taking Care of Your Brain

Your Brain Matters!

Our brains are an amazing gift from God to us, and we ought to take good care of them. They are involved in every single thought we think, and to tell you the truth, they are incredibly important to the quality of our lives.

It is really interesting to see how we prioritize our ability to think and reason, to remember, to make decisions and problem solve, yet most of us aren’t doing anything to actually preserve and protect these capabilities. We are just allowing our brain to run on autopilot, to run on habit and routine.

Sitting on Your Butt All Day

Let’s liken the dange of being sedentary to the dangers of not taking care of our brains.

Research shows us that sitting all day long has many negative health ramifications because we were never meant to stay seated 90 % of the day. Yet the answer isn’t really to build one hour of exercise into our day; rather, we need to create a movement-based lifestyle.

Movement is the entirety of what the human body can do, and that can be as specific as the ability of your
eyeballs to look from side to side and up and down, or your lungs inflating, or the ability to play thumb war with another person, or standing up on your tippy-toes so you can reach the glass on the very top shelf.
Movement can be incorporated in all these different ways in our lives and we can get out of the habit of no-movement.

The Brain is a perpetual problem-solving Machine

Just like our body is created to move, so our brain has been created to solve problems for us for the rest of our life. Yet if we live with a brain that simply moves out of well-worn habits, we start running habitual thoughts and we spend very little time problem-solving.

In the “good old days,” humans had to think and problem solve and try new things and feel uncomfortable and step outside of their comfort zone just to find food and water and shelter and warmth, very much akin to the necessary movement to remain alive back then.  Now, we live in a modern world in which we are no longer required to problem solve. We are not forced to use our brain the way that it was meant to be used.

When we no longer challenge our brains to come up with new ways to solve problems, we no longer strengthen our brains.

Habits weaken us, making us less capable in the long run.

Mental Stimulation

When we are just stuck in ways that cause us to repeat actions and thoughts over and over and over again, we allow our brain to harden and calcify; it begins to lose its incredibly beautiful plasticity–its ability to be pliable and flexible, to change with time, its ability to grow and learn new things.

If we are serious about taking take of our brains, we really need to consider the need for mental stimulation, because mental stimulation is the opposite of habit.

The Basics

Mentally stimulating activities help build connections between nerve cells in our brain.

Basic mental stimulation includes any kind of activity that requires mental effort and creativity, like reading, taking courses, doing word puzzles and math problems, and do things like drawing and painting and crafting.

Beyond the Basics

All these activities help our brain remain sharp, and that is a very good thing. However, there is more that we can do.

Here are  the three basic keys to keeping your brain active and stimulated that you can practice every single day:

  1. Break out of routine and habits

When we are stuck in habits, we stagnate.

Find what are your routines and your habits and start practising getting your brain off autopilot.

What can you do to shake things up? Maybe you drive the same way every day, maybe you always use Google Maps to tell you where you’re going. Maybe you order in when you could be cooking. Maybe you sit on the couch and watch TV in the evening when you could be playing a game.

2. Find opportunities to learn 

If you simply watch your brain at work and learn how to manage is with the think-feel-act cycle, you have ample opportunities to become a lifelong learner.

3. Court Discomfort

Oh, that’s the tough one! Most of us run away from discomfort because it feels like an emergency that we want to avoid at all costs. But feeling uncomfortable is a good thing. It gives our brain an opportunity to learn how to handle a situation in a new way. Discomfort can help us evolve rather than the thing we need to hide from.

The key here is to reframe discomfort. We’re so used to seeing it as a warning sign. But really, it is simply an opportunity to discover what we believe, to stand on what we know, and discover ways to prove God’s Word infallible.

Our brain is such a valuable asset. Let’s not be lazy, but let’s be diligent to protect it and take care of it.

What are YOU going to start doing now that you don’t yet do? Please share with us! And if you know anyone who could use a little challenge, please send them this blog post!