Are Birds Nesting in your Hair?

by Mike Ratliff

1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:1-6 ESV)

I have learned to view my own struggles, my circumstances, my failures, and my frustrations as God showing me not only what is wrong in my heart that is in dire need of His cleansing grace, but also as learning experiences from which to teach. Over the last few days I have become disconsolate borne from impatience with nearly everyone. I have gone from the mountaintop a few days ago to some serious frustration and impatience. It seems the more I want to write these posts the less time I have to do so. The time pressures on my window of opportunity to research, pray, and write has shrunk it to half the size I have become used to. As a result, I have found myself becoming very angry. This anger has simmered to the point that it has caused me to show some signs of growing bitterness. That really got my attention. Why was this happening? What is God showing me? What is it that I have missed in this walk that would keep this from happening.?

Over the last year I have become very grateful to God for preserving the writings of Martin Luther and the other reformers as well as the Puritans. But, God has used Martin Luther to speak the most to my heart. His writing style is not scholarly at all. It seem as if he was writing whatever he wrote for the common man. This morning I read one of his devotions that the Lord used to show me exactly what was causing my anger problem. I pray that God will use this to speak to your heart as well.

Controlling your Thoughts

by Martin Luther from Faith Alone – A Daily Devotional

7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, (Genesis 32:7 ESV)

While Jacob was on his way to be reunited with his brother, Esau, he was plagued with doubts. He learned that Esau was wealthy and had a large family. He thought, “What if God has changed his mind? Maybe God has rejected me in favor of my brother.” These were Jacob’s thoughts. but they remained just that–thoughts. Because of human nature and weak faith, people can’t keep from having these kinds of thoughts any more than they can avoid other emotions, such as impatience, anger, and lust. You can’t keep thoughts and temptations from coming into your head. Just don’t let these thoughts become fixed in your mind so that they begin to affect your judgment.

You should follow the advice of a hermit who was approached by a young man complaining of having lustful thoughts and other temptations. The old man told him, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but only let them fly. Don’t let them nest in your hair.” It’s all right to have these thoughts, but let them remain just that–thoughts. Don’t let them grow to the point where you have to act on these thoughts.

This was the problem that led to despair in the lives of Cain, Saul, Judas, and others. They let their thoughts grow and grow until they were saying, “My punishment is more than I can bear” (Genesis 4:13), or “I have sinned,… for I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4). When they did this, their temptation was turned into a judgment because they rejected the Word of God, faith, and prayer. But in spite of the many thoughts and severe temptations that Jacob experienced that night, he didn’t throw his faith away.

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16 thoughts on “Are Birds Nesting in your Hair?

  1. Mike,

    Not only am I thankful for your wonderful articles and your books, for they truly are a blessing and provide great aid in my walk, but please know that I greatly appreciate the time you put in “Possessing the Treasure”…answering/commenting to your readers. I am sure I speak for all of them when I express my thankfulness. I do not have to question that the Lord will bless you – I know that He has and will continue to bless you!

    In His love,
    Sherry

  2. Mike:
    Thank you for this convicting post. I struggle against anger and the past weeks I have found myself giving into it. I know the roots are discontent, bitterness and deep frustration. I appeciate that I am not alone in the battle and am grateful for your willingness to share. Last night I was ready to just give up. But I know there is forgiveness through Christ. Thanks for your timely encouragement. Wendy

  3. Sherry and Wendy

    Thank you both for the encouragement. It means more to me than you know. I am truly blessed by God. I pray that I will keep my eyes and thoughts focused on Christ as I try to run this race. When we get distracted we dwell on our fleshly thoughts and then we stumble and fall out of the race. Very frustrating. However, the conviction that comes with this is a very good thing. It causes us to cry out to God, seek His face and move forward in our repentance. O teach us how to kill our sin O Lord!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  4. Mike

    Thanks for your honesty your post speaks to each one of us. Given the right circumstances I believe we are all capable of striking the rock in anger as Moses did.

    For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

    Psalm103:14

  5. Mike,
    I thank the Lord for His patience with me. The many times I have struggled with sin, He never gives up. Thank you for always being honest in the things you struggle with. I admire more a person that can point the finger at himself then a person that always points his finger at others. It’s called humility.

    Cristina

  6. Your thoughts on temptation and the cross over to sin is an interesting one…I hope you don’t mind but I was asking the same question on my blog a little while ago in regards to homosexuality. Asking the question, “at what point does the temptation turn to lust and sin?” this question was brought up in the “comments” part of the following post.

    http://contendearnestly.blogspot.com/2007/01/is-homosexuality-sin.html

    I really like the parallel with the birds flying over our heads…makes a lot of sense.

  7. Seth,

    No, I don’t mind one bit. Our falling into these sins follows a pattern. They are borne from our hearts and become those thoughts, then we dwell on them until they give birth into full blown sin and rebellion. Thanks for the link.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  8. It is hard to control one’s thoughts! Sometimes I get mired down with my own thoughts about what people are thinking about me because of their action toward me. Their actions very well could be innocent but I have turned it into something else because of the junk in my head. Renewing my mind in the Bible “keeps birds from nesting in my mind”.

  9. Great article.

    As A pastor I know both the challenges of managing time, and meeting needs, and the frustrations that come from expectations. They indeed can lead to all kinds of vile thoughts. Luthers words are fully appropriate.

    What has gotten me through lately, is to look through this slew of despond, and pit of dispair, to God’s glory. His beauty and fulless in Christ, and to wait on Him, until my change comes. And it usually does.

    “For though this outward man perisheth, the inward man is renewd day by day.”

    It keeps us looking to the one who loved us and gave himself for us, and to work confidently from that view! Isa 40:31

    Thanks again

  10. Sarah,

    This struggle is common to us all who are serious about our devotion, service and walk before the Lord. I think God had be struggle this week so I could write this because it has struck a chord with many of God’s devout followers.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  11. Jesse,

    Thanks for the encouragement. Yes, this struggle keeps us dependent upon His grace. That is such a great “idea” to focus on God’s glory, to delight in Him. Yes, thank you.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  12. Most of the posts I write come from inspiration from God that is tangible. With that the words come easily from my hand. But there are those times when I feel nothing and writing seem like a labor. It is those times when I feel my faith is tested the hardest.

    Your post is revealing to all of us. Thank you, mike.

  13. Rick,

    Yes, that describes how I write as well. I have written some posts while in the slough of despond or the valley of humiliation that were extremely tough to even get started. However, those are the ones I write that seem to me as some sort of Soul purge thing that no one will care to read. It is amazing to me that some of those posts were the ones the hit chords with people in a way that I could never imagine.

    I pray that God will be glorified in me and then I expect Him to keep me in some sort of spiritual state in which it just flows. Not! That is actually very rare. Most of the time I write from the heart as I pray for direction and inspiration because I am in such a stressed out state that there is no way I can do anything but trust that He will do it.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  14. Catching my thoughts are exactly like trying to catch a flock of swift little flitty birds! They have ahold of me before I know it. I’m entertaining them before I remember I should be examining them and casting out thoughts that are based in fear and pride. Hear is a prayer. “Dear Jesus, give me a new view of Yourself that I have not seen, to set my gaze upon. Grant me the grace to discipline myself to the point of taking every thought captive to You. I am far off from this discipline Lord, and I lazily squat before it. When I get discouraged and think it’s impossible, please teach me how to do it and give me patience & tenacity, I pray; so as to gain the territory of this soul for Your Kingdom purpose. Amen. “

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