The Bible As a Basis for Good Mental Health
I heard this analogy from Pastor James MacDonald, Senior Pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Elgin, Illinois: Our lives are like a television set, with three channels. Channel 1 is about our past. Channel 2 is the present, and Channel 3 will be about our future.
Channel 1 isn't all that interesting . . . (Spoiler Alert: You know how all the shows end!) They're all re-runs! You've seen these shows before. And if you're watching those, you'll miss the new "season premier" shows! (They are on Channel 2 right now.) Channel 3 doesn't come in very clearly, no matter how much time you spend trying to tune it in. Even if you have "rabbit ears," a special antenna, 127 ft. of wire, and a whole roll of tin foil, you can't get it to come in. You could stand on one leg with one arm out the window and bark like a dog, but the future channel is still fuzzy, or pixelated, at best. Channel 2 is the channel we need to be watching. It's what's happening right now. It's the "NEWS" of our lives!
One way I help myself "stay in the moment," is with my calendar. I start with an "everybody-gives-them-out-free" calendar, so I can note things in the little boxes, but then I supplement that with a more in-depth strategy to account for my time. Nothing fancy, or technical.
I use a simple notebook, where each day has one page. Each line on that page represents a time period. So, starting from the top, in the left-hand margin, I write in the hours. I usually start with 6, 7, and 8 on the first three lines (because not that much happens that early for me :), then I give a couple of lines (2-3 maybe) to each of the hours that follow. Spacing the numbers out this way, the bottom of the page ends up about 10p.
About two-thirds of the way over from the left, I draw a vertical line to divide the page. I label this area: "Choices and Opportunities." That's where I list what's happening that day: a concert, party, family get-together, and other scheduled events and activities. I also add other things I might like to do: visit a friend, clean (I said "might"), take my granddaughter to the museum, shop, writing . . . stuff like that.
Back to that left side of the page, I draw a box to fill in sections of time for things I'm "Scheduled to Do," like work, doctor appointments, meetings, classes. (Sometimes I fill in "Watch ABC News" at the 5:30 time slot. I don't have to tune in then, it's an opportunity . . .to see David Muir. He's one of my favorite newscasters :)
Ok, so once the obligations are filled in, I can see where I have time available for what I could do--the choices I can make--so I can take advantage of the opportunities I have! Even if there's nothing scheduled on a specific date, I'll sometimes list "take on-line class," "meditate," "research xyz," . . . reminders that there are always specific ways to use my time before it slips away.
It has occurred to me that nowhere in the "Choices & Opportunities" column do I list, "Worry," "Be Angry About," "Cry over hurt feelings," or "Make Up Speeches in my Head." But I do. I have never scheduled, "Spend a half-hour trying to decide what to wear," or "Avoid bill-paying," or "Ignore healthy eating guidelines." But I have.
It helps to tell myself in advance how I'm going to spend the time I've been given. By reviewing my notebook throughout the day, I can re-focus on what I should be doing now! (along with some healthy optimism for things to look forward to.)
And do I look back on those pages past? Not really. Maybe here and there, noting what I've accomplished, but hardly ever. No, I'm moving forward . . . and the information on the upcoming pages is way more interesting and exciting! I've heard it said that that's why our windshield is so much larger than our rear-view mirror. We have to be able to see where we are going! No one would drive around in reverse, depending on their rear-view mirror for assistance. (Mine's defective.)
I've adopted this mantra: "THIS is the day that the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in IT!" (Psalm 118:24; emphasis mine).
All of this writing in my calendar book . . .it's really a lot of "self-talk." Talk that shapes my actions. Actions speak louder than words, but however you say it . . . A Voice Carries.