Every now and then I find myself in a setting where I’m surrounded by particularly smart people.
I’m never quite sure how it happens.
Like last month, when I was asked to join a panel with four other women. We were perched on stools in front of 10,000 women. It was fun. But, I’ll admit that there were several points when the topic turned to indepth theological issues that completely baffled me. I just sat there nodding and smiling and trying to look . . .well. . smart.
Not sure it worked. I’m pretty sure my response to one particular topic gave me away. Everyone – and I do mean everyone . . .like. . in the whole world – looked my way just in time to see me shrug my shoulders and say, “I have no idea”.
Thankfully, everyone was gracious and just moved on.
Dr. Caroline Leaf is smart. Being in the presence of this brilliant neuro-scientist is worth the drive (or flight) to get there. Every time I’ve heard her speak or have read a chapter of one of her books, I come away puzzled – not because I can’t understand what she’s talking about but because I can.
This woman travels the world showing regular folks, like you and me, how the brain, science and the Bible intersect. She breaks down deeply scientific topics about the brain into bite size pieces that any brain (even ours) can digest. Then she hands you Scripture and shows you how to put them to work to reformat and renew your thinking.
She’s a gift to the world.
If you don’t know her yet, it’ll do your brain good to make her acquaintance.
So glad she’s with us today.
Like an expert chef, we can choose to put only tasty thoughts (Philippians 4:8) and feelings into our cells. Perhaps when we recognize that putting toxic thoughts into our brains is like putting poison into our pasta, we will understand why God exhorts us to control our thought life; putting healthy thoughts into our minds is akin to that dash of fresh basil on top of the simmering bed of rich, luscious lasagna. Moment by moment, each and every day, as we think, choose and wire thoughts into our brains, we are poisoning or strengthening our immune system, body and mind, which will, whether we want it to or not, have an impact on our spiritual development!
The fact of the matter is that when we meditate on good things, and not on toxic, poisonous things, we increase the gamma waves in our brains, which means we increase our attention, memory and learning capacities. Research has shown that with healthy thinking we build up portions of our brain that produce happiness, just as healthy, fresh ingredients can make a pasta so much more delicious. Moreover, science also shows that meditating on good things, like what the bible teaches or a good classic, improves moods in a far superior way than antidepressants, and with no poisonous side effects! In truth, when it comes to aging, research has shown that older people with healthy attitudes and NOT toxic poisonous ones lived seven and a half years longer! Now that is my kind of pasta!
Additionally, the thoughts we put into our brains have powerful genetic effects on the production of healing proteins in our bodies, just as the ingredients we use in a pasta dish will affect our health. What you think, feel, and believe constantly changes the genetic expression and chemical composition of your body on a moment-by-moment basis. High stress levels – the result of poisonous toxic thoughts- suck biochemical resources away from cell repair and kill brain cells, as would a dish of poisonous, bitter pasta. With over 1400 chemical reactions and more than thirty hormones shifting chaotically in response to toxic thinking, what was good can become really, really bad–a poisonous concoction, indeed!
The expert chef understands that he can control the quality and ingredients of his food, and he understands that what he makes will not just affect himself but those individuals who are relying on his expertise, and are looking forward to a good meal. The same can be applied to our brains: when you begin to understand that with every feeling and thought you are performing epigenetic and genetic engineering on your DNA, you realize you actually have a degree of leverage over your mental and physical health that can make a critical difference to your life…and the lives of those around you.
When you “bring your thoughts into captivity to Christ Jesus” and “choose life”, you intervene consciously with positive emotions, thoughts and prayers. Besides making you feel good, these healthy “ingredients” benefit your body, modulating your gene expression towards a better life, mentally, physically and spiritually. This peak is different for everyone and we shouldn’t compare ourselves. Random life situations and events are generally beyond our control, but we can control our reactions, which are thoughts, to these situations. So, no matter how sick or how many problems we currently have, we have the ability to CHOOSE our thoughts with their embedded feelings, and select those that support peak mental, spiritual and physical vitality.
Bon appétit, and remember: no more poison in the pasta!