Several years ago, when we were living in Washington State, I was invited to my nephew’s wedding on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond in Scotland.
Who could resist that? I took my younger daughter along and we planned to travel by train. I grew up in England and we had traveled by train all the time. I knew trains. No problem, right? Wrong!
The plan was to fly to Manchester, take the train to Leeds in Yorkshire, and spend a few days with my parents before heading off to Edinburgh, Scotland to do some sightseeing before taking the train on to Glasgow.
The day arrived for us to start our journey to Edinburgh. After dragging our suitcases up one stair and down another (no escalators, really?) we finally arrived on the platform. The train pulled in and we boarded. We had barely settled in for our lovely scenic ride through the English countryside when I heard over the loudspeaker: “Next stop, Doncaster.” “Doncaster? Oh No!” I thought to myself. “I think we’re going the wrong way.” After consulting with a passenger and verifying that we were indeed bound for London, we grabbed our bags and got off the train - in Doncaster. Not exactly where I wanted to be.
In a much humbler attitude, I finally managed to get us to our preferred destination, and we spent several fun days in Edinburgh and then beautiful Loch Lomond. It was a memorable trip, in more ways than one.
A cute story, you might say with a chuckle, but I do have a point.
Have you ever heard the expression, “I lost my train of thought”? Well, of course you have. I am sure you’ve even said it a time or two, or three or a hundred.
Have you ever been thinking a thought, or even been in a conversation and you stopped and asked yourself how did we end up here? You know how it goes - you’re thinking about the weather, which reminds you of a time when you slid off the road in a snow storm, which reminds you of the Lasagna that slid onto the floor, which reminds you of a co-worker who made 20lbs of lasagna for her husband’s hunting trip, which reminds you of your boss, which reminds you of the doll house he was building for his granddaughter which reminds you of the doll house your Dad made for your children….. and before you know it you have arrived at the land of pleasant memories, and feelings of joy and blessedness.
But a train of thought can also take you in the opposite direction to a place you really did not want to go. You’re thinking about the weather, which reminds you of the flight that was delayed due to a thunderstorm, which reminded you of how you missed connecting with an old friend which leads you to thinking that nothing ever goes right for you and before you know it you are in the land of bitterness and regret.
Some people believe they cannot control their emotions. They assume emotions just appear out of nowhere, of their own accord. What they fail to understand is that their emotions are driven by their thoughts. Suppose you look out of the window and see that it is raining. You might think, “I’m so glad it’s raining, my garden certainly needs it, thank you God for the rain” which leads to a feeling of being blessed and happy. Or you might think: “It’s raining, now I can’t go out and weed my garden, which means I’ll have to do it tomorrow instead of going to visit my daughter. Why did it have to rain right now….?” leading to feelings of frustration and resentment.
You can control your emotions by controlling your thoughts. Scripture tells us that controlling our thoughts is not only possible, but advisable.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
We can choose to think negative thoughts or positive thoughts. Scripture tells us to choose the latter.
Philipians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things”.
In Proverbs 23:7 it says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he”.
Our thoughts are our life so it would be wise for us to make a more conscious effort to monitor what we allow ourselves to think about.
Back to the train. I have begun a practice (and I am by no means perfect at it yet) that when my thoughts are going in a negative downward spiral, I say to myself, “I am not getting on that train.”
However, as my experience in England showed me, it is not enough to just get off the train. You must get on a train that is going in the opposite direction. You cannot just stop thinking a negative thought. Try it. It is almost impossible. You must replace the negative thought with a positive one.
Sometimes it is just enough to start thinking about something else. Sometimes you need to flip the negative to a positive. But if you find that hard to do, try filling your mind with the words of God. Arm yourself with an arsenal of positive scriptures, or affirmations, that you can recall at a moment’s notice. Maybe have them written down and easily accessible to you. You could even try to whistle a happy tune or song of praise.
Many books have been written about positive thinking, and it is outside the scope of this little blog to do the subject justice, especially if you are going through a severe trial. But for those everyday little irritations, when you find yourself in a critical spirit or you simply just got out of bed on the wrong side, do not allow negative thoughts to take root. Just get off at Doncaster and get on a different train going in the right direction.