Lent Devotional #4

Your Brain on Newness

Isaiah 43: 18-19  Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Experience in life activate the neurons in our brains. No matter if it is a good experience or a terrible experience, our brain is affected and a response created. The more we have this same experience the more we are wiring the brain to always have the same response to the experience. Daniel J. Siegel author of Mindsight says that no matter your experience, transformation is possible by learning to focus your attention in therapeutic ways like focusing on the breath or a walking meditation.  When we engage in mindful practices, we can stimulate a new pattern of neural firing. This opens us to new things! God gave our brains a way to embrace newness.

I’ll share a story with you that will hopefully inspire you to believe that personal and communal change is possible.  This story is from Ann Lamott’s book, Hallelujah Anyway.

A writer named Lynne Twist took a team of leaders from The Hunger Project to a small village on a western tip of Africa.  The village’s water resources were running dry and all hope for finding a solution seemed impossible.  So the Hunger Project team met with the village leaders.  They sat in a circle with the village men while the women sat behind them.  The village men thanked the Hunger Project leaders for showing up to help them address their water crisis.  During the conversation, Twist and the Hunger Project leaders sensed that the women were eager to communicate, so Twist asked the village men for permission to speak with the women.

The women told of visions they had about an ancient lake under the sand.  They had no doubt that the water lie beneath them, but the men did not include women in making decisions for the village and they forbade the women to dig for the lake themselves.  Twist and the Hunger Project leaders believed the women and persuaded the village men to let the women dig.

The women dug, sang songs, & cared for each other’s children for over a year until they found their ancient lake.

Lamott writes, ”  This is one of those moments in one of those stories, that makes me want to dance around the fire, if I had one, to the rhythm of the drums, if only friends would come drum for me, in my colorful tribal frocks, because it gets in so deep, as usually only music and poetry can.  The mercy of baobab trees giving shade, the hydrating grace of their new lake, their ancient lake, there all along.  The mercy of the men letting go of their rigid roles.  the mercy of sweet water and song in the harsh desert.  The mercy of the helpers, the grace of second winds.”

See I am doing a new thing!  Thank God that even our hard-wired brains that get stuck in comfortable patterns can create new pathways.  Let’s find a way today to open our brains to New Things.


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