“A girl’s praise” by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple, March 2020
My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA. I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.
During our last article, we journeyed through growing in kindness. Kindness can be hard to define initially, but it is something all of us desperately need. It’s a flavour of love. It’s loving kindness, like the Old Testament Hebrew word “chesed.” It’s also goodness in action, as shown in the New Testament. It’s an active virtue that God seeds into our hearts directly through the Holy Spirit and through the kindness of others. The kindnesses of God, or T.K.O.G as we Copples call it, are mercies that God gives us every day. Some are small, and others are supernaturally big. The kindness of God leads us to repentance, since it melts our frozen or stony hearts. Ezekiel 36:26 shares that God “will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” God uses moments and acts of kindness to reach us in ways that make us feel deeply noticed, loved and cared for. We aren’t alone.
Once we realize that we aren’t alone, we know that God is there for us. He helps us to navigate difficult territory and bad news. Sometimes fears and old taunts that have been thrown at us can surface at these times. I call these playing the ‘old tapes’ from past experiences. Some of these experiences are from childhood, and others more recent. But they all play on each other until they are resolved. The child inside us still remembers incidents with childhood bullies, or a throw-away line in anger from a parent. The child doesn’t understand, and these events and words can limit, wound, and sometimes paralyze us with fear. The words limit growing past the experiences that brought pain, and the person will continue to react to anything similar until the issue is dealt with. Until the experience is resolved, it may continue to be a barrier for emotional and spiritual growth. Sometimes inner vows are made in moments of pain that only made the pain worse. These are vows like “I’ll never do this, or I’ll never allow that.”
When I was ten years old, I unofficially changed my name from Laurie-Ann to Laurie. I told myself that from then on, Laurie-Ann was dead, but that Laurie would survive. I would become a new girl, since my parents and I were also moving from one neighbourhood to another. We moved neighbourhoods partially due to childhood bullies and to start over in a new area. But the name change made things worse, and I had even more emotional pain. My original name of Laurie-Ann actually means Victory through Grace, whereas Laurie means victory. When I dropped the hyphen and Ann, I actually dropped the promise of grace in my name. I strived in my own strength to please others, and became a people pleaser. I didn’t grow stronger at all, but more enmeshed in pain and in a prison of lies. I needed to be set free, and to renew my way of thinking. The Holy Spirit helps us do this.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that we need to renew our minds. Romans 12:2 tells us to “not be confirmed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good, acceptable and perfect.” I had tried to please other people, but a person cannot please God until their mind is renewed. Romans 8: 5-8 says, “those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. The sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.” My sinful nature was to try to push down my experiences, instead of bring them to God for healing. I didn’t yet know God at that time, but even many Christians also strive in their own strength. They don’t bring their painful experiences to him for healing. And then they make wrong promises to themselves that only bring death and pain. That road may lead to addiction, broken relationships and more pain down the road. But we don’t know that at the time. We’re only trying to protect ourselves. We need to be transformed.
A person whose mind is not renewed by the Holy Spirit cannot receive all that God has designed and planned for their life. They cannot reach their inheritance and destiny. They and we need to be transformed. What is transformation? It’s a “complete change of character of something or someone, so that they are improved.” [Shellie Counts, “Renewing the Mind” Foundations for Counselling Ministry] A good example of this kind of transformation is in the Francine Rivers book “Redeeming Love,” where a broken girl who is forced into prostitution is loved and transformed into the woman God intended. It was the love of God and the love of her husband who melted her frozen heart. This dismantled all the lies that held her pain in place. But then she had to learn to think in new ways. She had to remember that she was no longer a prostitute, but she was now a beloved child of God. Biblical transformation is the key that unlocks how we need to be. This is a process where your old self can pass away. The Apostle Paul writes about this in Ephesians 4:21-24: “ Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Both Gideon in Judges chapters 6 – 7, and David in 1 Samuel 16 – 17 had to undergo a major mind shift so that they could come into their inheritance.
Why do we specifically need to renew our mind? Think of it as your mind being a computer. When you go through computer maintenance, you need to run scan disk and defrag your hard drive. You clean out the junk and empty the recycle bin. But then you find other harmful things on your computer, so you to clean those things out as well. Otherwise you can’t run programmes properly. The computer will be erratic because it’s trying to do too many things at once. This is the same with us when we may try to do something that looks simple, but since our minds and hearts are full of junk, we can’t handle it and have a meltdown.
Our mind is where we process info, thoughts and feelings. It’s also the place where we make decisions and choose our actions through our will. It is how we think that shapes our feelings and our behaviour. When I went to seminary, I studied for a major in counselling. We learned many approaches, but the one that worked best with me was cognitive therapy. That’s basically working with how you think. How you think actually helps shape how you feel. And your heart may be locked away by the lies that you believe. Francis Frangipane wrote the book The Three Battlegrounds. In this book, he reminds us that the blood of Jesus Christ was spilled at the place called Golgotha, which means the “place of the skull.” [Robert S Miller, Spiritual survival for Cross-Cultural Workers, p 222] Ironically, a fierce battle is still raging in the ‘place of the skull,’ which is the realm of our thoughts. Think back to a time when you were so upset that your mind was racing. It feels like your mind is taken over by a tornado. There is no peace. I’ve had this happen quite a few times in the midst of stress of university studies, emotional flare-ups and rejection issues. When we are hurting, everything seems to be a big storm around us, when it is not as big as we think. Lance Wallnau believes that we need to “allow God to change and adjust your perception filters to see as God does. This was what Jesus meant [when he talked] about wine-skins. Mark 2:22 is about changing wine-skins! Is YOUR mind-skin old and rigid or is it new and flexible? Here’s the scripture: “no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins. The wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” So just like new wine needs new wine-skins, so the new way of thinking, requires cleaning out all the old, wrong ways of thinking. It requires a new start.
One of the best people to teach you about re-wiring your thought patterns takes you beyond inner healing and cognitive therapy to use neurolinguistic programming. Her name is Caroline Leaf. I saw her speak for two days when I was at a leadership conference at one of my Ottawa churches in June 2015. She takes cognitive therapy and renewing your mind to a new level. She comes at it not only from a spiritual perspective, but of looking at the wiring of the brain itself. I remember she shared how negative thought patterns and complaining essentially re-wires your synapses in a harmful way, which can lead to illness. When you think positively on a specific struggle, over at least 21 days, the synapsis begins to repair itself. Changing your thinking is essential to detox your brain. If you consciously control your thought-life, you do not let thoughts rampage through your mind. [https://drleaf.com › about › toxic-thoughts] Caroline says that “every moment of every day, you are changing your brain with your thoughts in a positive or negative direction. Every time you think and choose, you cause structural change in your brain. Your thoughts impact your spirit, soul and body.” [https://21daybraindetox.com/] This is one of the reasons why critically ill cancer patients are urged to think positively and choose life when they are battling through their illness. I was told this personally by an oncologist counsellor at CapeGate, and a nurse who sat by my side after I had port-insertion surgery in late August 2019. Thinking positively with and choosing to focus on God with hope and faith is a huge part of the battle.
I used to struggle with old messages and lies told to me in haste by bullies, relatives and teachers. Each week we have in South Africa brings us discoveries of this kind of damage done to the children we love. As a child, Tony was told by his father that if he didn’t work hard at his studies, or in life, he would end up as a road sweeper. His dad used harsh words to get Tony to be a hard working responsible boy, likely at a cost of performance orientation. We need to replace the lies and misbeliefs we believe with the truth. Jesus told us in John 8:32, that “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” There is however a process, as we uproot each and every one of these lies. I remember being told by our pastor friend Mark Redner, that the only thing that can entrap us is a lie that the devil uses to hold us in bondage. Once we are free, he has no power over us. It’s true. All the fear, doubt and confusion are smoke and mirrors. Don’t believe it. Unfortunately, many times we do, since lies are filled up with just enough truth to make you believe it. William Backus and Marie Chapman wrote a book called Telling yourself the Truth. [Backus and Chapman, Telling Yourself the Truth (Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1980), pp. 15-22.] They label our negative thought patterns as ‘misbeliefs.’ Misbeliefs generally appear to be true to the one who is repeating them to themselves. They are hard to decypher because most of the time there is an element of truth in them. We have also said them to ourselves for years. These misbeliefs are even more of a challenge to decypher, because we live in societies that daily feed us misbeliefs through media. Some counselors who are not trained in this therapy may not even recognize these misbeliefs when they are confronted with them. Some examples of misbeliefs are, “no one cares about me so it doesn’t matter anyway”, “Nobody wants to be around me”, “I can’t do anything right”, “I must please everyone”. If you believe these types of statements, it is important to look deeper at them. Are they really true? No they are not! They are full of error.
This is important because what we think determines how we feel and behave. Let me give you two examples. Say that you tell yourself your father-in-law is a horrible man that is good for nothing. Then you will believe what you tell yourself. As you accept these words, your feelings and actions will follow. This may cause you to feel anxious around him and treat him more as an enemy than as family member. Or maybe you have an employer who is difficult to work with and you tell yourself that they hate you. As this thought persists, it won’t be long before you find it hard to continue showing up for work. More than likely, your father-in-law or boss gave you some reason to tell yourself these things, so you feel justified with your beliefs about them. That is why it makes it hard for us to see our own misbeliefs.
We often want to put blame on someone or something else. We may say, “if my husband were easier to get along with, life would be easier”, or “my church is full of hypocrites and that is the problem,” or “my family is a disappointment”. We learn from Proverbs 23:7, which says in the New King James Version, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” What we think determines how we will feel. This is so important for us to understand. We can stop getting angry, upset or misunderstanding someone in one fell swoop. If we think that a certain person is out to get us, we will respond in anger, defensiveness or fear. But it may not be the truth!
Consider these misbeliefs and the truth: Someone feels they are a failure at everything, including their marriage. This is extremely limiting and feels like a smothering blanket. Here’s the truth in perspective: Their marriage is struggling but they are deeply loved by their family and God. Or in the case of work: I hate my job because it is terrible. Instead, the truth would be: This is not my favorite job but it’s just for now. I can function well until I find better job.
I used to harbour mis-beliefs about doctors, since I met quite a few arrogant ones who didn’t listen to me or want to know my thoughts on the matter. I have met some who are kind, competent and helpful in Canada. But I’ve been absolutely blessed by most or all of the doctors who I’ve met in South Africa. Actually, I had been deeply blessed by the doctors on my cancer journey. We also became good friends with an emergency room doctor that I clicked with immediately in a social setting. He was even in the recovery room after I had my mastectomy. How comforting that was! I had to overcome my misbelief, so I could receive the kindness and care of these wonderful people.
Angela Duval shares that our first step to overcome these misbeliefs is to realize that they are LIES that bring us down. [Angela Duval, “ Life of Freedom – Changing the Way You Think Part 1” https://walkingworthyjourney.org/walking-it-out/life-freedom-changing/] We need to remove these lies from our thinking. This takes time and practice. Caroline Leaf says it takes 21 days to overcome one lie and replace it with truth. So be patient. Over time, we can become more skilled at recognizing the lies. Then, we must replace the lies with what is actually true. This on what is good! How do we know what is true? We need to read scripture, so we can learn what God’s truths are. “For example, it does us no good to say, “no one cares about me,” when we know that scripture teaches us that the God of this universe loves us with an everlasting love. Listen to Jeremiah 31:3: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” If you say to yourself, “I can’t do anything right,” remind yourself of Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” When you learn to replace false beliefs with the truth, you will experience a new kind of joy and freedom in your life. I believe that God desires us to live a life of freedom, and the truth has freeing power within it.
Other times our misbeliefs are the result any painful life circumstance. Trauma can hide all kinds of reactions and lies in our memories. So, we must evaluate where these beliefs came from and see whether or not they are true. As we discover those misbeliefs, we must verify whether they are true or false. In Philippians 4:8 we find the key to gauge the validity of our thinking. In it the apostle Paul shows how important it is where our mind chooses to focus. Notice that he is not suggesting a good idea; this is a command. He writes: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” [Elodia Flynn L.C.S.W. Founder, Walking Worthy and Angela Duval M.Ed. https://walkingworthyjourney.org/walking-it-out/life-freedom-changing-part-2/]
Do your problematic lies follow the lines of Paul’s command? Probably not. So follow four steps in weeding out the lies in your minds and hearts: One: decide that you won’t be the victim of your thoughts, and make a conscious choice to disregard them as lies. Two: evaluate your thoughts and beliefs using the standard I shared earlier from Philippians 4. Write in your journal which thoughts are healthy and helpful. Write which ones are lovely and praiseworthy and which are not. Three: give your thoughts and beliefs to God. Ask him to help change your thought patterns. Jesus came that we might have abundant life. Four: understand that changing how you think helps you change how you react to life’s circumstances. It also makes it easier to receive God’s peace, comfort and hope. Listen to Philippians 4:7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Elodia Flynn shares that “peace does not come from putting ourselves down, but rather it comes from learning to have peace within ourselves. It comes from having an understanding of God’s Word and choosing to believe it no matter what life and experience throw at us.” [Elodia Flynn L.C.S.W. Founder, Walking Worthy and Angela Duval M.Ed. https://walkingworthyjourney.org/walking-it-out/life-freedom-changing-part-2/]
Edgar Iraheta goes beyond renewing the mind to the heart – since both are affected by what we believe. Both are impacted by lies, and we may make judgements that make our heart condition worse. We will dive into that pearl of wisdom another time. In the meantime, renewing our minds is an essential start to transform us by rooting out lies, and becoming more and more in tune with the mind of Christ. This is part of our inheritance. Remember the Apostle Paul’s words I mentioned earlier. Here is another version of Romans 12:2: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good, pleasing and perfect.”
Lord, I ask you to conform our thoughts and minds more into your mind of Christ. We don’t always realize where the lies and misbeliefs are embedded in our memories. Help us to identify them, and weed them out. Help us to replace them with your truth. And as we do, fill us with your love, grace and hope. Fill us with your peace, as you go beyond our minds, and into our hearts. We thank you for carrying us through difficult times, and walking beside us in good times. Lord, thank you for all your kindness to us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu). Click here: (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #63! If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!
Updates: For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I am still receiving oncology visits, and the awaited plastic surgery on the left side of my mastectomy scar has been postponed, since the surgeon was concerned about me being exposed to covid.
I also receive MLD therapy, lymphedema treatments and physiotherapy to get me stronger for our eventual return to Canada.
Meanwhile, we are still waiting on our medical visas, which would allow us to stay until May 2021. According to Home Affairs, the wait can be up to 60 business days. That’s a long time without our passports, but we need to be patient and trust God and our lawyer during the process.
We believe that the medical treatment here is excellent, although expensive, despite the rand-Canadian dollar exchange has helped keep costs almost 15 percent lower. We have incurred significant medical debt, although kind people in Canada and around the world have helped us so far. God bless each and every one of them. But we still need help. Tony has significant medical bills as well for TB, eye surgery and other issues. Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.
We are still crowdfunding to cover the cancer treatments (as well as Tony’s TB treatments). If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod
L-A’s colouring book: If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape. You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson). Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link: https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424
Bless you and thank you for your support!