“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Luke 2:19

One of the uncomfortable revelations of Organizational intelligence (OI) is that our current spiritual practices are having little impact upon the ability of members to sustain positive relationships, practice hospitality, resolve conflict, trust leaders, or engage in ministry. One of the most important tasks of the Christian Church in the 21st century is to adopt a spiritual practice that bears fruit, that is, one that actually “works.”

One of the findings of neurobiology is that stress activates portions of the brain that trigger reflexes to fight, flee, or freeze. Lived out in a church under stress, this means that we are almost guaranteed to see people engaged in conflict, rigid behaviors, or leaving the fellowship all together. Religious practices that are simply focused on ideas, doctrines, rules, authority, pleading (or other forms of verbalized anxiety) have been shown to have little impact upon a person’s serenity, ability to nurture positive relationships, or to achieve meaningful goals.

What does show promise in the research is the kind of “treasuring” and “pondering in the heart” exhibited by Mary. Because negative messages travel through the brain ten times faster than positive ones, a deliberate effort must be made to “treasure” some thoughts more than others. Otherwise the good news of Jesus Christ becomes bad news wrapped in a thin religious veneer.

The ability to focus the mind, to ponder rather than wander, has also been shown to have positive effects of all kinds upon the lives of those who make it a regular practice. What’s more, the power of an intentional imagination is greater than we have realized. When a person imagines being touched by Jesus, the changes in the brain are the same as would occur by actually being touched by Jesus.

When my oldest daughter was seven years old, she rose up in the middle of a children’s sermon and started to walk away. When asked where she was going, she said simply, “I have heard this before.”

It is important to realize that it is not what we “know” that is transforming. It is what we treasure and ponder. This means keeping “young ears.” Listening with young ears means listening as if you are hearing something for the very first time. Whenever someone is helping me deal with an issue, I have learned not to say, “I know that.” When I deflect something I need to hear with “I know that”, I have just joined my seven year daughter in walking away from what God is offering.

There is so much I have heard before but not treasured or pondered. I suspect that the way toward a spiritual practice that creates thriving communities and individuals lies along this path.

Russ Crabtree
Contributing Author
Holy Cow! Consulting

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