If you have not grown up in the Valley, one of the craziest things to get used to around

here is driving in the winter fog. It is its own weather scenario that requires special training for those who are unfamiliar.

There was a particular instance, driving home from Fresno to Hanford, when the fog rolled in and we were in the middle of it. The conversation was going and we were driving cautiously, but my friend who was driving accidently blew through a stop sign. I noticed she was not slowing down and tried to let her know by basically shouting, which freaked us both out. Hearts pounding, we pulled over and thanked God that we didn’t cause an accident!

In the country roads, the stop signs feel like a hindrance sometimes, but when I realize what they are for, and how they keep us safe, I realize how much more respect they deserve!

I’ve been reading recently on how to train your brain. Romans 12 teaches us that renewing our mind is actually how we become transformed people. We do not rework our behavior, we rework our thinking. I have come to believe this because, over time, forced behaviors that are not backed up by a renewed thought process or belief system eventually fade away and old behaviors return.

For example, when I tell myself to read my bible, I know the most consistently free time for me is before my household wakes up. But in order to maintain that behavior, I must change my mind about my time and my sleep. Otherwise, over time, the forced pressure to get up a few minutes earlier is overcome by my desire to lay in bed an extra 30 minutes. So, I have to work on my mind…not my habit.

I started by telling myself that I am an early bird. I know how to go to bed early so I can be energetic in the morning. My morning minutes are golden minutes, so I give my best to Jesus. I went to work on my thinking. Then morning devotion became easier.

In the area of relationships, I have developed a few stop signs in my thinking which keep my automatic negative thoughts from running away with me! Sometimes, I assume too much. I assume the worst. I assume my way out of trust, engagement, or intimacy with people. What a powerful and influential force our thoughts are!

Here are a few of the ways I’m currently retraining my brain when I witness my thoughts drive ahead on the highway of assumptions.

  • It’s probably not about me. When people are communicating their issues or respond in a particular way, we sometimes obsess about what we did wrong to solicit that response. A lot of times, it’s helpful to assume it’s not about you until you get that communication more clearly directed at you. When you see a social media post right after an encounter which might not have been totally positive, don’t assume that post is about you. Assume it is about them. Assuming all responses are about you actually indicates a self-centered response rather than an others-concerned response.
  • Moments change and seasons shift. I consistently remind myself that this difficult thing may not be difficult forever! There are difficult days, but that doesn’t mean my entire relationship or life will be difficult. As I keep focused on obeying God’s will, I trust He will help bring solution to the challenge.
  • They probably mean well…even if it was hurtful. If we are going to pre-judge people, let’s do it on the positive and not on the negative! This world is full of brokenness and hurt. We can use grace by allowing people’s best intentions be our assumption.

These stop signs are not how you build an understanding of people’s actual character…this is how we stop automatic negative thoughts from creating a natural negative pathway in our thinking process. Negativity is easy to repeat. But hope can become easy if you develop that pathway. Let us be different thinkers. If I don’t know why someone did something (which is most likely true; we don’t know the full motives of a person’s heart), let’s allow the hopeful characteristic of love to challenge that negativity.

What stop signs do you need to instill in your thinking today?


Candace Cortez is Executive Pastor at Koinonia Church in Hanford, CA. She can be reached at candace@kchanford.com or 559-582-1528.