I Just AM Anxious

Identity

I have red hair.  I used to hate it when I was growing up, but I got used to it … and now because my husband loves it, I actually like it. 🙂  I couldn’t really change that I was born a redhead.

I also couldn’t change who my parents were. Emil and Asta were my parents and that was out of my control. Another thing I couldn’t change was that I was born a sinner with different propensities.

I struggle with anxiety.

There it is. It is ugly and not right, but I am tempted in that way.

When the Lord redeemed my soul, some beautiful, hope-filled things happened.

I received a new identity.

  • I am a child of God – John 1:12
  • I am an adopted child – Ephesians 1:5
  • I am accepted – Romans 15:7
  • I am full in Christ – Colossians 2:9-10
  • I am no longer a slave to sin – Romans 6:6
  • I am created in the image of God – Genesis 1:27
  • I am known before birth – Jeremiah 1:5
  • I am part of the body of Christ – I Corinthians 12:27
  • I am part of a chosen people, God’s special possession – I Peter 2:9
  • I am part of a diverse oneness in Christ – Galatians 3:27-28
  • I am bought by God – I Corinthians 6:19-20
  • I am hidden with Christ in God – Colossians 3:1-3

Arrest!

When the covid restrictions first started here in South Africa, President Ramaphosa deployed 73,180 soldiers to help enforce the lockdown. The soldiers would arrest, apprehend, seize, and take people into custody who were defying the covid restrictions laid down by law. It was frightening to see the law enforced, but in another way it was refreshing to see that people couldn’t just do what they wanted without consequences.

When the Lord tells me in Philippians 4:6 to not be anxious, it is not merely a little suggestion for me to consider. He forbids it. He says to arrest it! This is something that hits me between the eyes because of my tendency to worry.

Identity

Because I am redeemed, and my sin is something that I am trying to combat and minimize in my life, I certainly will not identify myself by my sin or argue with those who refuse to see me that way.

My identity is not in my anxiety. “Hi, I’m Karin and I’m anxious.” No, I mustn’t identify myself by my sin struggles, and certainly mustn’t say that I can’t help it, that this is just the way God made me. Confessing my faults is one thing, but wrapping my identity around something I am fleeing is quite another.

I must instead identify as a blood-bought and beloved daughter of the King who is no longer a slave to sin. My identity is determined by redemption, not by fallenness. By the future and not the past. “Hi, I’m Karin and I’m a believer in Jesus.” The Lord has promised to slowly and surely conform me to His image in Romans 8:28-29, so why would I keep referencing my old-self image that i am trying to put off?

Jesus wants me to identify as a member of His kingdom, to reflect His values and character, and to identify with a hopeful future with Him. I try to remember this, but wow, sometimes I fail miserably.

Hope

I love how hope is described in Romans:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope.”

Romans 15:13

You can be free. You are able through the power of the Holy Spirit to obey the Lord when He says, “Don’t be anxious.” What is super cool is that He tells us how in Philippians 4:6.

Steps from anxiety to hope:

  1. Bring all your concerns to the Lord. Lay them out before Him.
  2. Connect your concerns with thankfulness. Think thanks about the challenges that you face.

If we do those two things, Philippians 4:7 promises that the Lord will give us His supernatural peace to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. That is a pretty nice trade-off. 🙂

Now I know that it is not easy, simple or quick to change life patterns. It is a process. Sometimes a life-long process. The fight is happening in your thoughts. You can choose to ask God to help you think His thoughts. It may take a long time. He patiently walks with us and gives grace.

New Identity

So yes, I have had a struggle with anxious thoughts, but my identity is not in my struggle. My identity is that I am a daughter of the King. He has purchased me and provided me with hope to be renewed in my mind and to obey and follow Him. (Check out a link on this topic).

“Either you will be getting your identity vertically, from who you are in Christ, or you will be shopping for it horizontally in the situations, experiences, and relationships of your daily life.”

Paul David Tripp

In The Morning

When You Wake

Popped awake. All of a sudden you are aware that you are awake. Not sure what exactly woke you, but you have definitely left sleep and moved into awake. 🙂 Your eyes are still shut, but your thoughts are running. What are you thinking?

Do you try to remember the happenings of yesterday … or what lies ahead for this day? Maybe you check where you are hurting? Perhaps you don’t think about anything. Must … have … coffee … first?

What if the first thoughts you had when you woke was your sacrifice of praise to the Lord? Whoa there! That may be a little too much!

When Your Feet Hit the Floor

There is a lie out there that you can’t help what you think about. It is easily believed. But it is not true. We have great propensities, great leanings, strong habits to continue thinking patterns as we have always done. However, you are not a slave to them.

You can forge new thought patterns. You can be renewed in your mind. Your risen Redeemer who has paid for your sin account, and bought you, has promised to help. As you allow Him to reset your thinking, He can help you choose to THINK TRUTH. You are loved by your Creator. He desires for you to discover, embrace, and do His perfect will for you this day. He has good works that He has prepared for us to walk in today (Ephesians 2:10).

How about harnessing those first few thoughts as you wake to remember things that you are thankful for? It is such a good jolt to get on the right track as you begin your day. So, you sit up, rotate around and put your feet on the floor. BUT, before you stand up, mumble three things for which you are thankful.

  • I just woke up. I have been given the gift of another day.
  • My eyes aren’t swollen shut, and the optic nerves in both eyes work.
  • I was able to fall asleep last night and let my body and mind rest.
  • God never sleeps and has watched over me as I slept throughout the night.
  • God will not test me today above what I am able. He is with me.
  • I have a choice in what I say and do today.
  • I thank You, Father, for giving me Jesus.

Blessings of a New Morning

Have you ever thought of what a blessing it is that we get to go to bed and then have a new fresh morning? It is like you are given a clean sheet of paper to start anew.

Psalm 5:3 “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.”

Here’s a link to listen to in the morning – Give Me Jesus, by Fernando Ortega.

Nuggets

Panning For Gold

It was July of 1886, a winter’s day on the high grassy plains of South Africa. An Australian prospector named George Harrison traipsed through the high grass on the Langlaagte farm and chanced upon an outcropping with embedded nuggets of gold. Content with his little find, he sold his claim for £10 and moved on. Little did he know that underneath him lay one of the largest gold reefs in the world, which soon caused a gold rush and the founding of Johannesburg.

The 1800s was the era of Gold Rush Fever. When gold was discovered in a place, people came from all over the earth to search for their share. They would give up all they had to get a chance to find that nugget of gold. Often one would search for years and find nothing, going bust.

Nuggets From God

Matthew 13:44 describes a man that finds a treasure hidden in a field and in his joy he sells all that he has and buys that field.

The treasure in that verse is not physical gold, but is the Kingdom of heaven. The Lord was teaching His disciples using physical things to help them understand spiritual truths.

So what is a gold nugget from God? It could be a lovely truth from God’s Word that grabs your heart. It could be a moment when you see His hand in your life, His fingerprint.

Might you be like Harrison and miss it because you didn’t intentionally look for it? Most people go through life half asleep, their eyes down, their minds dull … and missing so much wonder. A th(i)nkful person has the eyes and passion to investigate through the swirling dirt and dust of the day to appreciate the nuggets of what God has done for us.

Discovering these treasures is what I am endeavoring to promote by being th(i)nkful. I wish for our eyes to be trained to look for these gifts from the Lord all around us, especially in his Word. In Proverbs 2:4-5 he describes searching for his wisdom as one who searches for hidden treasures.

“if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

What About When All I Find is Coal?

It is all well and good to find little golden nuggets, but you may say, “I only see coal in my life.” It may seem impossible for you to see any nuggets from the Lord in your day to day. Trouble, heartache, and sorrow may have engulfed you.

Well, I have a surprise for you. In I Peter 1:3-4 there is a huge nugget available to anyone who desires it.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”

Your living hope includes a sparkling treasure that no one can take away from you. It is kept in heaven for you. As you begin to see things with God’s eyes, you discover that there is a process going on. Our grace-enabled response to coal turns it into diamonds. He is able to make even my ugliest scars into trophies of his grace. Only Christ can do these miraculous things, but he can.

My Own Personal Nugget

Our oldest son Joshua is the worship leader for a small inner-city church-plant in Allentown, PA. Yesterday just by ‘chance’ I clicked on the ABC LIVE worship service. I love seeing him lead the songs and especially to see our grandson playing his clarinet in the back of the worship team. 🙂

Well, I just happened to click on when they were singing, “Still, My Soul, Be Still” (about 10:30 into the live stream) and I enjoyed hearing the familiar words and tune. The song encouraged my soul again as it has so many times in the past.

Then Joshua began to introduce the next song, he described how he felt when he was with his parents (gulp), and he said that he felt at peace when he was with us. My heart took a little jump. He was using that visual to describe how our heavenly Father wants to relate to us.

The gold in Celeste’s ring is from the earth in South Africa

That was a golden nugget from the Lord. These nuggets often come unannounced. All of a sudden, without warning, there it is ~ a beautiful golden nugget from the Lord. You may say that hearing your son describe being with his parents as a place of peace is no big deal, but for this momma’s heart it was a big nugget. A gift from the Lord and I took it as such. 🙂

When I train my eyes to look for them, these nuggets are all over the place. Gracious gifts that God gives on a continual basis. Mostly, they are present in His Word, but also in His world.

Have you discovered any nuggets in your life? I challenge you to become a prospector! Share your finds with others and start a gold rush! There are some incredible nuggets that are waiting to be found.

  • I opened both eyes this morning;
  • I woke up in my bed and not a hospital bed;
  • I typed this blog post; arthritis has not taken my fingers;
  • I have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God;
  • Through Christ I have the grace to “power through” anything that He allows to come my way;
  • I have no headache at present;
  • I get to serve the Lord today.

May God help you to find all the wonderful treasures He has stored up for you in Christ. Colossians 2:3 reminds us that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Enough

Tears of gratitude streamed down his face. He was so thankful for a cover over his head and that he was able to eat a warm bowl of stew. A blanket of contentment settled over his whole being. All was well. 

I am embarrassed to say that I was angry. Every person deserved better in my estimation. How can you be content with a shack and such meager food?? He kindly and quietly said that living in this shack and having some food was way better than sleeping in the field or under a bridge and slowly starving.

PERSPECTIVE

Contentment really is about perspective. One of the big side effects of believers going on mission trips to impoverished areas is that they return with guilt that they have so much, too much. But how long is it before they move downward from feeling “more than” to feeling “less than” others, where discontentment has crept back in?

KERNEL OF CONTENTMENT

“A harvest of peace is produced from a seed of contentment.” Proverb

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” so we can confidently say, “the Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5-6

There are several elements to the “seed of contentment” in that last verse, and the Lord is the kernel. 1) He has spoken to me and made promises; 2) He has promised that He is with me, never gone, and never unaware; 3) He is committed to me, never giving up, never walking away; and 4) He is my first responder, a helper reacting to my humble plea for help in His time and way.

CONTENTMENT LINKED WITH PEACE

One of my favorite names of God is Jehovah Shalom. It took some time to learn what all is involved in the word ‘Shalom.’ To borrow from modern culture, it is a “holistic wellness” word.

Shalom – wholeness, completeness, rest in my soul, stable prosperity in my finances and assets, no striving for more, harmony in my relationships, physical and mental health, and tranquility in my circumstances.

Jehovah Shalom can satisfy us completely. He has redeemed us and reconciled us to Himself, birthed in us a new divine nature, and has become the Master and careful manager of our circumstances. Those profound truths can greatly influence our contentment. When we get the singlemindedness that only God can really meet our deepest mental and emotional needs, we are able to become completely satisfied. He is enough.

I am not saying that we peacefully cruise to a smiling stop and don’t do our part. We need to work diligently at opportunities provided for us. Whether we are in school, in the marketplace, or working at home, we put our heart and fervent spirit into what lies before us and push to perform with excellence. Punctuality, honesty, character all need to describe us, but also contentment and trust in a sovereign God.

STOPPING WINDOW SHOPPING

What is required to make you feel satisfied, to feel that you have enough? Not sure most of us have really thought that out. We are easily influenced by all the advertising around us … and we begin to desire stuff. We need more, newer, better, faster, bigger. Are we thankful for what we already have?

The Lord has some words for us:

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”

I Timothy 6:6-8

“Contentment always eludes those who don’t count themselves blessed for what they already have.” Anonymous

Put a Log in the Way

Create an Obstacle

How do you stop movement along a well worn pathway? You put a log in the way. You create an obstacle.

a blog about obstacles

When driving down this road, all of a sudden there is no way that I can continue driving when I reach this log. I am going to have to do something different. I have to carve a new pathway around the obstacle.

The best way to stop doing something is to replace it with something else. 

At first this new pathway feels so hard and unfamiliar. It has not been worn down and made smooth by people walking on it repeatedly. It is new and a bit bumpy. The way is not obvious. I may have to improvise as I go along.

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This new path has to be developed and that takes time and effort. Step by step you begin. Baby steps, that is.  In time and through repeated efforts, you mat down the grass and smooth out the path. You may need to get a shovel and dig out a big stone or cut back a root that is sticking out. It begins to change, little by little. One day you could even run that new path with no problem.

Our brains are very similar. To break behavior that is not pleasing to the Lord, we call on Him to help us reset our minds and carve a new path of thinking.

Carving a New Path

When stopping a sinful habit of complaining and grumbling, it will normally take something big, like a log across my familiar path, to stop it.  Sometimes a family member will mention your negative attitude – they are throwing some branches across the path to get you to change. But you don’t.

Then the Spirit convicts you strongly about your complaining spirit during your pastor’s message, or you are dismissed from a ministry, or passed over for a promotion at work, because you are so negative – and that’s when the tree falls across the path.  You disregarded branches, so God sent you a log.  Now, you deliberately resolve to do things differently.aaa log post

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:2

As we continually present ourselves as a living sacrifice to the Lord, He will enable us to change. We desire to be conformed to His will (I Thessalonians 5:18), but it is not easy to leave the broad and easy road of complaining to follow God’s ways through the woods.

So, when forging a new pathway, it is profitable to have a basic plan in hand. How would you lay out a plan for creating a new neural pathway in your brain? Does God really expect me to do this? What are the benefits? How hard will it be?

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Setting Alarms

You could set up an alarm system for yourself. What little alarm could go off when I begin to go down that old blocked dead-end road?

  • Maybe I could cut out a little red stop sign that would be a visual reminder throughout my day that I need to stop my normal pattern of grumbling and complaining.
  • Maybe I need an accountability partner (your kids would be glad to help!) to give a funny sign when I begin my old pattern of complaining – the slash of a hand across the throat, or dotting fake tears down the face with an index finger.

Reprograming by Recounting

Psalm 9 has some great advice for us. The psalmist says, “I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” He had discovered the worth of the gratitude neural pathway. Learning to recognize and recount God’s work in our lives brings glory to God, but also helps our brain change as we turn an action into a habit. It gets our perspective on who God is, His character and His sovereignty. It fosters our ability to trust in Him.

Set up a routine of saying three things you are choosing to think thanks about at a certain time and place each day.  When you wake up, try to think of those three things before you even get about of bed. If you’re not a morning person, you could wait until after coffee.  Maybe it can be at dinner time; if you do it then, you may inspire other family members to follow.  The routine is strongest if you see your hand write the words. Get a basic journal and begin recording these three things right before bed; you may have added more by then. 🙂

At first it will not feel natural to do this – it’s a brand new pathway through the woods! But I can promise you that after keeping this pattern for a month, it will begin to be so natural that it barely takes a minute or two to complete this.  The reset of your mind is taking shape. You are becoming more focused on the Lord God. The pathway in your brain is developing.

The blocked mental path has now made way for a different one ~

A  mental path that will become easier and easier to go down as we obey the Lord in calling out to Him for grace.

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Not Just Thankful For

“Just Be Thankful,” She Said

“Whoah, I’d rather not write down a list of things I’m thankful for.”  The counselor’s eyebrows went up in disbelief.  Was this newer believer that bitter?  “Can you explain why?” the counselor asked slowly.

It turns out that, as a life-coach a few years ago, she was very much into these practices of making gratitude lists.  She was well indoctrinated with self actualization methods and had taught people about harnessing energy by expressing thankfulness.  Now, as a believer in Christ, she had a different goal of serving Christ instead of channeling internal energies.  She wanted to forget that life.

a blog on thanking God

Being thankful, and expressing thankfulness, has become an important mantra in multiple self-help fields around the world.  Believer or non-believer, it doesn’t matter. Being grateful, forging new neural pathways of thanks in the brain, is now being strongly promoted as part of well being. Who you direct your thanks to is not important, many would say.  All that matters is that you are thankful.

To Whom Are You Thankful?

Does that matter?

Yeah, it does. A LOT!  Being th(i)nkful is not just learning to think thanks in every circumstance in your life; there are two additional components involving God, one coming and one going:

  • It first involves downloading grace from the Lord to stop, think and recall things to be thankful for;
  • It secondly involves uploading thanks directed at Him from whom all blessings flow and who is Sovereign over even the negatives in your life.

We are to be thankful FOR.  But even more, thankful TO!  To thank is to throw credit to someone else; to return a favor with words.  Acknowledging who is responsible for everything that you are thankful for is KEY in thinking thanks.

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“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it

is like wrapping a present and not giving it to someone.” 

William Arthur Ward

Thankful TO

Directing our thanks to God is what sets a believer apart from an unbeliever. Anyone can be thankful and it reaps wonderful benefits in our minds and even bodies. But directing our thanks to God is what the Lord has asked of us.

When the scriptures exhort us to be thankful in all circumstances (I Thessalonians 5:18) or to give thanks always and for everything (Ephesians 5:20) that gratitude needs to be directed to Him. Because I can trust His sovereignty and His ways, I can then, in response, think thanks and express it to Him in trusting obedience.

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Lilac Breasted Rollers happen to be my favorite bird. I love to see them in the savannah. When I think and express thanks for that precious bird, I must direct that thanks to the creative God who created it using almost every color on His pallet.

He is the One I give my thanks to.

When I realize that I am choosing to give thanks to God, the worldly exercise of making gratitude lists to produce positive energy loses its power. I am not just thankful FOR, but more importantly thankful TO.

I thank You, my God and my Father.

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Anxiety v. Hope

Beyond Hope?

If another person would look at his situation, they would not see much hope. He was, like, ancient.  She was decades beyond fertility.  It looked impossible, hopeless.  BUT…Abraham did not give in to anxiety. He had been given a promise by God.

Romans 4:18, 20-21

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.

The Weight of Hope on Your See-Saw

Have you ever pictured your emotions on a see-saw as life goes by?  On the one side you have the weight of anxieties and on the other is the weight of your hope.  How heavy is your hope?

aaa see-saw-faith

Compare these two definitions:

HOPE: a confident expectation

VS

ANXIETY: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome

Which side is winning in your thoughts?  How heavy is your hope?  When anxiety sits down, does your cardboard hope launch into the air and waft down to a useless place nearby?

You may ask, “how can I possibly add weight to my hope?”  It feels so light and flimsy.

Turning the Weight of Difficulty into the Weight of Hope

Romans 5:3-5 gives us steps to build hope in our lives.

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame [will not disappoint], because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

We begin with thankfulness for the weight of difficulty.  All of our suffering is structured and purposeful; God is behind it, with His inimitable smile and His eagerness for us to succeed.  So, we start by rejoicing, thinking thanks, about our sufferings (difficulties, weights and pains in life).  God’s Word says that suffering builds our endurance, which is hanging on and doing what’s right even though we are thinking about how tough this is.

But over time, endurance builds character, which is doing right without really thinking much about how tough things are.  When you have learned character, this gives you hope, a confident expectation that God is pleased and will one day reward you for sticking with it through difficulties.  You won’t be disappointed!

Through this process, you turn the weight of difficulty into the weight of HOPE!  Heavyweight hope defeats anxiety in the boxing ring almost every time.

Some of you were very anxious about the coronavirus in March, but as the months roll by, things have actually gotten worse but you are more used to bearing the weight of that difficulty, and are trusting in the Lord more steadily.  Your endurance is becoming character, and as you please the Lord by trusting in His promises and sovereign plan, you take things in stride. Your hope is in Him, not in your country, not in the politicians, and not in the medical experts.

Confident Despite the Odds

Abraham lived about 4000 years ago. He chose to trust in God’s promises to him. He suffered for decades without a son. He learned endurance. After a while, his character took it in stride and he built a heavyweight hope in God.aaa seesaw 1

His confident expectation in God’s promises was greater than his confident expectation that he would never have biological children.  Because Abraham counted God able to do what He had promised, God says that it was counted to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:22).

God kept His promise to Abraham.  He is going to keep His promises to you, too.

Our Father is unable to break His promises to us. When He promises that He will send His Son back for us, it can be trusted. When He promises that all things work together for our good of being conformed to the image of His Son, we can rest in that. When He promises that He will give us wisdom when we ask, we can count on that.

“For in hope we have been saved … if we hope for [confidently expect] what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” Romans 8:24-25.

Th(i)nkful Boost

What suffering could you rejoice in today? How could you give thanks for challenges in your life that threaten to weigh you down and steal your hope?

It starts with one step. Think of one difficult thing today that you could rejoice about and give thanks for.  Write it down or share it orally with another person.  Get in the habit of sharing every day one thing that you are thankful for.  It will boost your hope.

Abraham felt like it was impossible, but his emotions were wrong.  He chose to believe. With God all things are possible and He keeps His promises.aaa seesaw

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?  Numbers 23:17

The Th(i)nkful Challenge

Words are Powerful

A teacher was ready to pull her hair out. The class was rowdy and definitely not quietly doing their work. She finally asked everyone to get out a piece of paper, to write down the name of each class member going down the left side, and then to write one nice thing about each person. Later the teacher collected the papers and compiled each person’s characteristics on their own page. The next day, she handed each student his or her compilation of compliments.

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Years later, the teacher got word that one of her students had died in Vietnam and she was asked to attend his funeral. The soldier’s family showed her that piece of paper from junior-high with the other students’ kind remarks about him; he had carried it in his wallet until the day he died.  Other students at the funeral slowly pulled out their pieces of paper as well and said how much it had meant to them.

This is the true touching story of a teacher at a Catholic school in Minnesota, and it shows the power of encouragement.  The student who passed away in Vietnam was Mark Eklund.

Thinkful Challenge

In this blogpost I would like to challenge you. 🙂  I want you to think of a person in your life that God has used to make you more like Himself.  Perhaps God allowed the influence to be from afar. Perhaps it was a relative or a classmate. God uses so many things to shape us and purify us, but there are certain people who have made a particular impact on your life to move you toward Christ.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17

Take some time to think. I am sure that there are many, but at least pick out one. After settling on that one, I encourage you to write a few ways that person has been used by God to help you grow spiritually. It may have been just by example; it may have been key comments at critical moments in the formative years of your life; it may have been through an extended discipleship relationship.

When you’ve completed your list, then thank them. Thank God first of all, and then thank the person. The best way is in person, but if you are far away or lack the courage, perhaps a hand-written letter (like, with stamps), or even an email would be acceptable. Yeah, probably not a text.

My Person

My response to the Thinkful Challenge brings me to Joan.  We met up over 26 years ago when our family joined the mission with which we currently serve. She (being a fellow MK and someone who lived in Africa) and I had no trouble quickly connecting.

God used Joan in my life to make me think. Over the years she has influenced me with her life and with her words.

She challenged me in crafting a LPS (Life Purpose Statement).  She encouraged me when I was discouraged. Over and over, she and her husband Paul poured courage into David and me.a blog on Joan 1

I remember one time when we were speaking together at a ladies seminar on the Big Five. We used the theme of the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt as a platform to talk about the most important things to have in your life.

    • Elephant – Life Purpose
    • Cape Buffalo – Building Redemptive Relationships
    • Lion- Spending time with King Jesus
    • Rhino – Accountability Partner
    • Leopard – Spotting Discipleship Relationships

Joan’s favorite animal is the African Leopard.a blog on Joan 4

I felt so nervous to speak to all these women, but Joan would encourage me to just represent Christ. “Jesus does all the work,” she would say, “you are just a tool.”

Once, when she visited us in Africa, she went with me to a fabric store and helped me think of ways to decorate our home. She made things happen. She powered through obstacles.

A huge blessing from Joan is her love for our MK children. She has a special place in her heart for MK’s. No doubt about it. 🙂 The cool thing is that they love her back. She has earned their love.

One of my favorite memories of Joan is traveling to Israel together. It was the best trip of my life. I loved seeing all these places from the Bible come alive. What a gift to experience that adventure.

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When visiting Abraham’s tomb, Joan, Avril and I had to wear big robes for covering. We felt oddly like nuns in this mosque.

We drank water from the well where Jesus had met with the Samaritan woman (John 4). We walked around the Garden of Gethsemane where our Savior wrestled through those difficult moments before dying for our sins on the cross.

There are so many things I could mention, but in the end, I thank God for how Joan pointed me to Christ. The Lord used her in conforming me to His Son.

Thinkful for Joan:

  • She gave words of affirmation when I felt so weak and incapable
  • She represented how a godly woman should invest her life, in discipleship and mentoring
  • She has cared for her mom during difficult years
  • She loves on missionary kids and makes them feel important
  • She is so funny and has a godly irreverence for religious traditions
  • She does cool, innovative and impulsive stuff
  • She has decorated her home in African style, celebrating her memories living there
  • She is a reader
  • She has taught us as missionary ladies about balance in our lives
  • She is not afraid of rebellious kids and loves sinners, like Jesus

Thanks, God, for the influence of righteousness that Joan has had in my life.

I am th(i)nkful.

a blog on Joan

 

 

 

In Everything

In Everything Give Thanks

He had walked into their town, seen dozens respond to the gospel, and helped them start a church. They held a special place in his heart. But after a few weeks, Paul was forced to flee because of intense Jewish opposition.  Timothy and Silas stayed behind with the largely Gentile church.

Thessaloniki, Greece, was the capital of Roman Macedonia. It lay strategically alongside major trade routes. Today, the city has almost a million people.

Paul traveled there from Philippi and had to secretly slip away to Berea, helping the new believers there find Jesus the Messiah in their Hebrew Scriptures. But then, opposition again kicked in, and Paul moved on.

While staying in Corinth for 18 months, Timothy and Silas caught up with Paul and brought good news about the Thessalonian believers standing strong and true in the middle of persecution.  Paul wrote to them expressing his thankfulness and love for them.  It is at the end of his first letter to the Thessalonians that this verse is placed:

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I Thessalonians 5:18

In everything we give thanks.

The “everything” doesn’t deserve the thanks; it’s the sovereign God behind “everything” that deserves the thanks.  He has got this.  He knows what He is doing.  He can be trusted. For the Thessalonians, their present circumstances were hard, and thus, more than any other church, Paul taught them a lot of prophecy – the hope of Jesus’ return. If we struggle to thank God for the present, we can always be thankful for the hope we have that sufferings will be one day be rewarded, and this broken world put right.

New Testament Overview

My husband just completed teaching NT Survey here in South Africa.

NT class

Just for fun, I sat in on his classes and took the exams along with the other learners. I am amazed at how those books are coming alive to me the more I study them. One of my favorites is Colossians. It is similar to Thessalonians in that Paul sent them a personalized letter, but also in that there is a strong emphasis on giving thanks.

Colossae was situated inland from Ephesus.

Paul never made it there, but Epaphras who came to know Paul in Ephesus, went to Colossae and shared the gospel with them. He cared for their spiritual well being. Paul wrote “Colossians” to this group of believers. All four chapters have a verse referencing being thankful. Chapter three has three verses in a row (3:15-17) that give direct commands to be thankful, much like I Thessalonians 5:18.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:15-17

It Is God’s Will

“In everything give thanks, come what may,” is a very good motto to live by. But, to up the ante, it is not just a good motto to live by – it is God’s will for us, His directive to us. When Paul wrote that to struggling believers in Thessaloniki, he gave no wiggle room. There was no excuse for certain personalities or ethnic cultures or passing human emotions where expressing thanks just wasn’t done.

There was no escape.  Given that “everything happens all the time,” they were to constantly be looking for things to be thankful for.  God wants us to give thanks in everything.

Thinkful List Today:

  • God has given us grace to power through Covid-19 so far
  • David teaching an overview of the New Testament to hungry learners
  • Food to eat today
  • We have a bed to sleep in
  • Headache has not been bad today
  • That when I have pain and discomfort Lord Shammah is with me
  • This life is a vapor and soon I can be with the Lord
  • I got to clean the balcony today and had hot water and soap to do it
  • I got to have discipleship with a friend
  • If God wants me to give thanks, He will enable me to do it

 

 

 

Art of Thankfulness

Art

Are you artistic? Are you creative?  Some people have a creativity that fashions perfect moments out of ordinary ones, makes old wood and rusty metal into works of beauty. Others of us have to wait for inspiration.

Creativity is intelligence having fun, turning up the color, pushing beyond the bounds of the normal into the imaginative.  A person with an artistic bent can take a basic subject and express it, illustrate it, and expand on it creatively.

Isaiah was an artist. He wrote to people who were pressed down and discouraged and creatively inspired them toward the art and discipline of thankfulness.

Thankful for God’s Creativity

Having lived on three different continents for at least a decade each, I have grown to love people and their cultures. I love their diversity. I love how we are all basically the same, and yet so complicatedly different.  Food, clothing, language, customs, celebrations and values distinguish one culture from another. But all of us want to be accepted and loved. And all of us need redemption.

Our God is amazing. He created each one of us from the same source.  Noah and Mrs. Noah had the genetic DNA to provide for the awesome diversity we see around us. God is the ultimate artist. Just stunning that millions and millions of unique people could come from that one couple.an impartiality post

God Is Impartial

Presently in our world, equality is very fractious topic. Our differences have created inequities, which in turn cause pain. People are mistreated and abused. That trauma leaves scars, and painful responses build even greater pain and separation.

We protest and fight for equal rights.  It is understandable. We want the wrongdoer to be paid back for the wrong he has done. We want there to be justice without partiality.

The problem is that our world is broken. It got messed up. When sin entered, our perfect world was infected with selfishness and a growing desire to worship things instead of God. Selfishness and greed allowed prejudice to take root in our thinking, creating in-groups and out-groups, the haves and the have-nots. The longer our cultures drifted from God, or ran from Him, the more we rejected His truth that there should be no partiality.

an impartiality

Before the cross of Jesus, there is no difference between ethnicities and genders. We all stand guilty and in need of a Savior.

Before the Judgment Throne one day, we will also stand completely equal. No one will have extra favors because of family or wealth or connections.  The only thing that will matter is whether we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

The Art of Thankfulness

0828ONLINE_Feat_CMExpressing our gratitude is both an art and art appreciation. An “aesthete” is a person who appreciates art. Most of us cannot handle a day in an art museum; we move through at a good speed stopping only to acknowledge famous things. Aesthetes move slowly, and often, not at all. They are emotionally intelligent people who can just stare at a painting, moving their focus here and there to notice the details and just drink it all in.

Thinking and expressing thankfulness to God is being an aesthete in his art museum.  It stops our tendency to walk on by, and focuses on the details in His painting, the hues and contrasts in color, the choices of light and shadow. Such thankfulness, can both amaze and comfort us. This artist KNOWS what He is doing. He is a Master.

On Which Part of the Painting Do I Focus?

In chapter 12 of his book, Isaiah lays out a solution to the struggles that we face. The people around him were very discouraged. They had suffered from the Assyrians and had gone through great turmoil and hardship, but in the middle of their difficulties, Isaiah points to hope in God their Savior. He directed their eyes to other parts of the vast painting, where darkness will be abruptly ended by a hero emblazoned in a golden glow.

We have a similar hope in God who alone, through the work of Jesus on a cruel cross, can forgive us, save us from the wrath to come, birth new spiritual life in us, send His Spirit to indwell us as a Comforter and Guide, begin His lifelong work of transforming us from the inside out, and give us the hope of a home with Him forever. If we could take a peek at the fate of the unrighteous, we would never stop saying “thank you.”

You are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), some translators say, “God’s original masterpiece.” Your life, with its light and dark streaks, bright colors and dull grays, is His workmanship.  How do you assess His work?  Are you a critic or an aesthete?

Children stand too close to God’s painting of their lives; they see just the color in front of them. It is not until our waning years that we are often able to get a better perspective, standing back from the painting, to see His design.  Even then, we still look at everything through a smoky glass, which will be taken away when we arrive Home.

an impartiality post 2A culture is a much bigger painting, involving all of the paintings of individual lives and how they flow into each other. One theme in art is that bright colors represent joy.  How wonderful it can be, then, when humans of every color bring their unique palettes to the greater canvas of culture.

True, the darkness of fallen sinfulness covers some canvases, but the image of God can also be seen in every culture. Smallness is a fear of colors not in our palette; largesse is thankfulness for all colors and looking for ways in which those colors, including our own, can be redeemed and used by the Master painter for His glory.

From Thorny Problems to Thankful Proclamation

Our Pastor Des here in Amanzimtoti, South Africa, shared this devotional on this topic.

Our attitude of thankfulness is:

          1. Fueled by remembrance
          2. Founded on trust in a sovereign God
          3. Strengthened through proclamation”

How victorious to move our focus from the thorny problems around us to the solution of God. He has made a way of reconciliation. He has forgiven. He has paid for all the injustices. He gives mercy and freedom to His restored image-bearers, and enables us to show those qualities to others.

We can trust the Righteous Judge to set all things right in His time.  In this world we will have struggles and injustices.  There will be pain and sickness and persecution.  But in Christ we are headed to a better place.

 

an impartiality blogpost

“For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.” Colossians 3:25