Monday, July 25, 2011


In Bible class, this past Sunday, we talked about how humans develop trust. This goes back to our first few months of life outside the womb and marks the establishment of attachment. We saw a clip of Dr. Edward Tronick's "still face experiment." In this clip a baby and mother engage in typical communication until the mother is instructed to make her face still; to not react to the baby in any way. At this point we study the baby's reaction. She tries everything she knows to get a response from her mother and when nothing works, distress settles in. At about the time I can't stand it anymore, the mother relents and responds to the baby.

This is the typical reaction of babies with a healthy attachment to their parents. These babies have developed patterns of behavior based on the understanding that a parent will react. This is the first thing that is learned in order for a baby to develop socially, emotionally and in language. A baby without a healthy attachment would respond very differently to a still-face mother. These babies have not developed a trust that someone will respond. This creates a scar that prevents most other healthy learning.

Our discussion topic, surrounding this clip, was about trust. When God teaches us to trust we are able to engage in a relationship with Him. As with the mother and child, God does the work in this relationship. He is the one who engages, teaches and responds. Furthermore, He does so perfectly, knowing exactly what we need and when we need it. We are welcome to cry out to Him, however, He has already anticipated both our pain and our needs.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 (ESV)

We are babies, buckled into a car seat facing our Heavenly Father. We cry, we squirm, we try to draw God's attention; all the time He looks at us in love and understanding. Trust is knowing that God has a plan for our life. Trust is knowing that God can bring good out of anything. Trust is knowing that He will provide what we need, as we need it. Trust is knowing that God has already accomplished all we need or could ever want.

And know this: God never looks at us with a still face.

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3: 17-19 (ESV)

Continue your day with the peace-filled knowledge that God blesses you with trust and always looks at you with love, mercy and peace. You are His precious child.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fixed or Growth?

The last time “This is Your Brain on God” met we discussed Carol Dweck’s theory on fixed vs. growth mindset. This researcher learned that people fall into one of these two categories, depending on whether or not he/she believes his intelligence and behavior are set in stone or can grow and change. Here is a clip on mindset that explains the basic idea.

While very few people would SAY they can’t grow, change or learn, apparently about half of the population acts as if this was true. This means there are a lot of people running around afraid of making a mistake, or trying something new because it will mark them as less than competent. They want to stay safe at their level of competence.

It also means that there are a bunch of people running around who eagerly seek challenges and know they can learn from mistakes. They are not satisfied with their level of competence.

I suspect that growth mindset people make far more mistakes but that fixed mindset people are more likely to sabotage their growth. We human beings sure are messed up in our sin, aren’t we?

So as Christians, living as sinners in a sinful world, what mindset works best for us? Hmmmm, stay away from sin, or grow? I think the real question is which one is possible?

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalm 51:5

We can’t stop ourselves from sinning. We have been sinners from the beginning of our lives and will continue to make mistakes until we die. Trying to prevent ourselves from mistakes is a hopeless task. Trying to follow the law only convicts us of our sin and convinces us of our need for a savior.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

Yet, this whole idea of growing and learning is not without its problems. We can’t improve ourselves anymore than we can stay away from sin.

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. Isaiah 64:6a

Sounds impossible, and as always, the answer has to be found in a loving Father, the redemptive act of His Son and the work of His Spirit.

Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love. Psalm 33:18

We cannot save ourselves by following the law. God saw this and sent Jesus to accomplish justification for us. Through the living of one perfect life, through death and resurrection, we are made righteous in His eyes.

But God did not stop with justification. He continues with sanctification. He sets us apart and works faith in our hearts through the word and sacraments. He changes us.

For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13

For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. I Thessalonians 4:7

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 5:9-10

I suspect that we are happiest when we are somewhere in-between fixed and growth mindsets. We are fixed mindset in that we know we are sinners and cannot change that truth. We have a growth mindset in that we know that through the work of God we can grow and bear fruit.

Rejoice that this is true: the burden for our salvation is not ours; the blessings of living a sanctified life can be known to us through word and sacrament.