Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Power of Words

Tomorrow begins one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. I begin CHEMO (cue the scary music). Chemo is a word than sends fear into most people's hearts. A word that makes us say, "Oh no1" when we discover a friend or loved one will have to endure it. I am getting CHEMO to treat CANCER.  My CANCER is THYMOMA. It is RARE and there is NO ONE I know that has ever had it. Look at all those words. Chemo, cancer, thymoma, rare, no one. Those are some pretty scary words. Can you feel the weight of them as you read?

You know what? You have scary words, too. Yours may be different. Maybe yours are lonely, scared about the future, in debt, conflicted with a loved one, unemployed, sad, failure, ill, lost, fill in the blank.

The impact that my  words have had on me, and others in my life, has led me to think a lot about the power of words. As a student of human behavior and the brain, I have long known, from multiple research studies, that what we think and do has a direct impact on how we feel and our physiology (how our body feels). Where we can control what we choose to think and what we do, it is more difficult to change our feelings and physiology. The only way we can change those areas, is by changing how we think and act.  Our emotions and our physical states follow our thoughts and actions. When we think our scary words,  it changes the chemistry of our brain. Our brain in turn sends signals to our body to react. Our body receives the message and responds accordingly. For example, I can sit here and think, "I have a headache." If I dwell on that message, my brain sends it to my body, my body reacts, and soon I will indeed have a headache. There is even research to indicate that people who smile, even though they are in an an unpleasant situation, actually experience more happiness and comfort than those who frown through the same situation. Our feelings follow our thoughts and actions.

The Bible talks about thoughts, too. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, "...We take captive of every thought to make it obedient to Christ." And how are we to do this? Many scriptures speak to this, but one that stands out to me is Phillipians 4:8 "Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about these things."

My scary words don't meet those criteria. They are not true, noble, pure and lovely. They are not admirable, praiseworthy or excellent.  I am not alone. That is a lie. Cancer and chemo are not lovely. The fear they produce is not admirable or praiseworthy. The way they make me feel is not excellent. If I listen to those words, I am weakened. My brain becomes tuned in to the negative messages, on what seems to big to overcome.  My body will hear my brain, and believe it. It will begin to manifest the lies.  If you listen to your scary words, you are weakened, too. But if we hold our thoughts captive to what we are told to focus on, we unleash God's power in our lives. That is not to say our problems disappear. It doesn't mean we will walk around happy and strong all the time. This life isn't for sissies and the naive. What it does mean, is that as we walk the more challenging paths we will be able to do so more gracefully and will be able to see light in the darkness. The darkness may remain, but we have hope. And not only hope, we will also find joy. Joy endures when happiness fades.

I won't take on the personality of my scary words. I will not own cancer and thymoma. I have a "Nuisance" that I have to deal with so I can continue on my journey. Instead of seeing chemo as something that is going to make me ill and fatigued, and kill off cells in my body, I am choosing to see this healing treatment as "Power Aid".  What flows into my veins is going to make me stronger, not weaker. My rare "nuisance" does not make me alone. I am surrounded by people who love me and are lifting me up on prayer and daily thoughts. The fight does not disappear, but my strength for the fight greatly increases when I stay focused on the truth.

What about your scary words? What lies are hidden in them? How can you reframe those thoughts so that you hold them captive, rather than being held captive by them? I want to challenge your thoughts. Rather than focusing on what you don't want in your life, focus on what you do want. Rewrite your scary words. Let conflict become forgiveness; fear become hope; and failure become second chances. Don't focus on where you are, focus on where you want to be. Most importantly, never lose sight of the one who will take you there.

Let's revisit that first paragraph:
 Tomorrow begins one of the biggest opportunities for healing that I have ever had. I begin my healing treatment that I like to call "Power Aid". I am getting "Power Aid" to treat a little "Nuisance"  so that I will have a long, healthy and joyful future!  Those are some powerful words. Can you feel the strength of them as you read?

I challenge you. Rewrite the paragraphs of your life. And know this, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!" (John 16:33).

As you pray with me along this journey, I pray for you, too. We have different struggles, but we all struggle. Thanks for praying and cheering me on!! I am so blessed!! Now, we have to get back to marching around those walls of Jericho!


  1. I am so inspired by your words and you lift me up. You are in my prayers. Thank you! Deanna Harville

  2. I have been reading your stories. This one hit me hard. I have a fear of failure in my life but reading your words has made me feel strong. I will take each day and enjoy it. Your are in my prayers and also your family.