Thinkful Going Viral

Screen Shot 2020-04-06 at 2.21.10 PMGoing Viral

Sometimes it’s a video of a reporter suddenly seeing an approaching wild animal, or neighbors welcoming home a teenage cancer patient, or an incident of heroism or racism, we are used to referring to a rapidly spreading story as “going viral.”

YouTubers hope that their music, sports, cooking, drone or humous video will go viral and get a million hits. Famous people thrive on seeing their tweets go viral – even negative attention is better than no attention at all, right?

What Does Viral Mean?

A couple definitions of viral are:

  • of the nature of, caused by, or relating to a virus or viruses:“a severe viral infection”
  • contagious; descriptive of an image, video, or piece of information that is circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another – “it went viral

Lately, we have heard the word “virus” a lot – almost too much to bear. The coronavirus has deeply impacted our lives; stopped our mobility, filled our hearts with heavy news, sent some of our loved ones to suffer or die alone, upended our economy, and snuffed out our jobs. This virus has demonstrated how the phrase “gone viral” got its name. From the first cases in Wuhan at the end of 2019 … to epidemic … to pandemic … to civilization-altering.

Imagine Good Viral

aaa viral post 4Can you imagine with me for a second how something good could go viral?  Let’s take the concept of a person being thinkful.  Here you have one person that chooses to download grace from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance that comes into their life.  They actively express that thanks. They either write it down, express it orally, or post it in written or video form on social media.

Let’s say they “infect” just two people to follow their example. Then those two people express how they are choosing to think thanks amid adverse circumstances and infect two more people. In a short time, the exponential power of “overcoming thinkfulness” can move a simple choice to pandemic status.

Example of Going Viral

Debbie began to float the idea of sewing face-masks to help our community. It started with her talking to a local doctor and then she garnered other ladies to help.

aaa viral post 6As of this evening, we have been able to provide over 400 face-masks for our Amazimtoti healthcare providers, police officers, and gas station attendants.

We now have Debbie, Chrisna, Sarah, Jacky, Daphne, and myself sewing like crazy to try to be a testimony for Jesus in a needy time. Common masks are almost impossible to get, so providing the masks with an insert about our church and scripture is greatly appreciated.  I love seeing it grow exponentially.

Thinkful Viral

The beauty and danger of something going viral is that it takes so little. Just one cough droplet or the accidental touch of an infected area can have huge ramifications. So also is the power of one person choosing to think thanks. aaa viral post 2It takes one person inspiring another and encouraging that person to do likewise. These days it likely happens on the computer from all our isolated homes.

Won’t you start? Just be the one to set the example. Many of you are already doing it; I see it on social media. You have developed brain neural pathways of looking for things to think thanks about throughout your days. You give your thanks to God as a present. He is deserving of this gift, this sacrifice of praise, even when we don’t understand His ways. Especially then.

Th(i)nkful (adj) describing people who choose to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in their life and to express that thanks orally or in written form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Infection of Anxiety

Most Popular Bible Verse

Kelly Smith of our team here did some research and learned the Bible verse most Googled in 2019. Can you guess what it was?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6

anxious?No surprise. It will probably be the most popular verse for 2020 as well! Humans are typically anxious people. Do any of these words describe you?

Uneasiness, concern, care, worry, doubt, tension, alarm, distress, suspicion, angst, apprehension, misgiving, suspense, nervousness, disquiet, trepidation, foreboding, restlessness, perturbation, watchfulness, fretfulness, disquietude?

We struggle greatly in this area. If we are unable to control specific areas of our life, there is a compelling invitation to partake in anxious thoughts.

No wonder God compares us to sheep. Sheep believe that if there is a change, it will almost certainly be bad. Only sameness with a trusted shepherd allows them to lie down in green pastures. David said (Psalm 23) that our Shepherd is so powerful and trustworthy that we can pass through valleys of the shadow of death and fear no evil because He is with us!

Uncertain Worse Than Bad

The way we view uncertainty while continuing to move forward is called “ambiguity tolerance.”  Good leaders have to have high ambiguity tolerance as they move people forward to a “preferable future” that is far from certain. That’s why they are leaders. Regular people struggle with changes to the norm. We don’t do well with deviations from our daily routine, workplace, and normal companions. And now, enter Covid-19.

The new coronavirus at present has caused over 15 000 documented deaths worldwide (in a few days this number will sound wonderfully low). Just a few months ago no one really spoke about a coronavirus, now everyone talks about it. Countries and economies are shutting down to isolate and try to prevent spreading. Schools, church meetings, non-essential jobs, concerts, sports, and any large gatherings have been cancelled or greatly restricted.

In a matter of a few weeks our world has changed. There is so much fear, and even worse than what we see that is bad is the uncertainty about the future; our health, our finances, our food, our security.

But our God has not changed.

Relief – Your Importance

How can we find relief? It feels like we are caught up in a never ending web. We think we are starting to get on top of things, and then we hear of something new that sends us flying into the anxiety abyss. 😦

I have good news.

There is a way out.

The Lord will not test us above what we are able (1 Corinthians 10:13). He promises to guide us through the temptations to be anxious, if we will let Him.

He says, “Look at the birds.” You can consider sparrows that are everywhere on earth. You can pick out your favorite bird nearby – one of ours is the European Bee-eater [pics] – and ponder the importance of that little one to God.

 

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 6:24-25

He knows everything that you are anxious about. He loves you. These difficulties and challenges that plague you are not without reason. You are being shaped by them.

Relief – Your Connection

In this heat of the trial of the unknown, there is a prescription from our Father.

If you have reconciled with God, then you can call out to Him with your angst and worries, and accompany your requests with thanksgiving, He will pour over you supernatural peace. Peace that will fill your entire being and guard your emotions and your mental thoughts. That is a promise that He makes to us in Philippians 4:7 and He never ever goes back on His promises.

If there is unfinished business between you and your Creator, you must deal with it. Get things sorted out. This is not the time to delay!

He will direct your path, whether staying home here or going home to the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-9). In either case, it’s going to be ok. His ‘ok’ should be your ‘ok.’

Relief – Being Th(i)nkful

How about getting a piece of paper right now and writing down all your concerns before the Lord. Then connect each item with thanksgiving. Yeah I know, at first it feels impossible, but power through. Discover just a few things that you can give thanks for in the middle of the test.

My Thinkful List for Covid-19:

  1. The virus has a ‘wake-up’ element for humanity
  2. The virus is humbling the arrogance of nations and of scientism
  3. Around the globe, we are unified in a strange sense
  4. People become aware of how we affect each other
  5. Families are spending quantity and quality time together
  6. Prayer is becoming more popular
  7. People are talking about God and the afterlife
  8. As we prepare ourselves for harder times, we take stock and shift priorities
  9. The brokenness of the earth makes us eager for heaven
  10. Turns up the volume on the need to share the Good News of Christ

anxious 3

How about letting these words describe you:

Security, confidence, relief, assurance, serenity, contentment, calmness, tranquil, halcyon, untroubled, unruffled, mild, temperate, restful, composed, sedate, peaceful, amicable, irenic, collected, gentle, sober-minded, steady, genial, equable. 

“Thanking in the midst of a trial is the intentional exercise of a spiritual muscle, a choice to believe Him instead of our circumstances or feelings.”

Debbie Willoughby

Grow Down to Grow Up

Amazing Trees

Have you heard of the upside down tree?  The huge baobab tree here in Southern Africa has the unique feature of looking like it is topsy turvy with its roots sticking up in the air.aaa tree blog2

Although all trees may not have the radical look of the baobab, each species has its fascinating uniqueness.  And just think of all the products that we get from trees: fruit, paper, furniture, food, healing ointments and syrups, just to mention a few.

There are 60,065 tree species in world. Every tree, like every human, is unique.

Trees in the Bible

The Bible makes significant mention of trees – literally and figuratively.  The Garden of Eden had two very famous trees; the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life which God has kept cultivated in heaven’s greenhouses until the New Jerusalem is established (Rev. 22:2).20190312_193311

But the Scripture also pictures a person as a tree. What kind of tree would you be?  A person who loves God’s Word is a healthy tree (Ps. 1). King Nebuchadnezzar was a tree that got cut down (Dan. 4). Jesus likened people to trees, and said you can tell what kind of tree they are by their fruit (Mt. 7:15-19).

Screen Shot 2020-03-04 at 3.11.54 PMGrow Down to Grow Up

If you know anything about trees, you know that what is happening under the surface is even more important than what you see; the health of what you see is determined by what is happening down in the roots.

The same is true in the Christian life; what is happening in the privacy of our hearts and minds determines what is happening outwardly.

In the soil of my mind is Truth about God’s character, God’s work (in the world, in sending Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, even His work in my life), and God’s promises.Screen Shot 2020-03-04 at 3.13.06 PM.png

But in the soil of my mind there are also Lies of the world, the flesh and the devil driving fears, setting goals, promoting values, pushing attitudes about myself, about other ethnicities or classes, and about God.

My HEART is my core wanter that chooses where my roots are going to grow to draw up nutrients … either drawing on Truth or drawing on Lies. The Truth that my heart draws up feeds my THINKING, what I meditate on in my free time.

My THINKING in turn shapes my DESIRES; here is where the tree branches out – I have desires, drives, for what kind of wife I want to be, what kind of mom, my desires as a businessperson, desires for what I want to achieve as an athlete, desires for the depth of my walk with the Lord, desires of how I want my kids to turn out, desires for our holidays, cars, and homes.

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Those desires are fleshed out in my BEHAVIORS, moment by moment, enjoying things that line up with my desires, getting frustrated with things that are against them. Desires determine how I spend or save my money, how I perform at work, how often I share Christ or live like Jesus (hey, I am bearing some fruit!), how I interact with my teens, how I serve at church, when I get up and what I do first thing in the morning. Desires drive behavior.

EMOTIONS are the upper leaves, the tip of the iceberg. Toxic emotions flow all the way up from toxins in the heart, through bad thinking that skews my desires and can blend together with some other bad behaviors.

Then Comes The Test

Notice that when you look at both sides of the tree, they seem similar. A Christian can be drawing on lies that feed everything they do, and their leaves still seem pretty green. But then the winds, the waves, and the storms come.  Then comes the HEAT.

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It seems that only in the heat can we slowly see what a believer’s roots have been feeding on.  Jeremiah 17:5-10 speaks of two trees.

The first tree is in vv. 5-6: “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord [feeding on the lies of the world]. He is like a shrub in the desert and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

The green is gone; the leaves just fall away because they were fed by lies, not truth.

The second tree is in vv. 8-9: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

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Going For Thriving and Fruitful!

So, what is God’s desire for your life, a perfect life in His way of thinking?

  1. I must be born again by tapping into the Living Water (faith in Jesus Christ) – this requires a personal response to the gospel.
  2. I must be rooted, anchored and sustained by the Truth about God’s character, God’s work, and God’s promises – this requires a commitment to read His Word personally, to get a study Bible to read the notes, to listen purposefully and take notes during Bible studies and messages, maybe to listen to podcasts – whatever it takes to know our God well.
  3. My heart must constantly draw up Water and Truth to renew my mind, control my desires, and produce fruit – as the heat comes, it is critical for me to let go of lies I have been believing, keep my roots in the water and the Word of God, and in some cases, to even produce my best fruit in severe conditions.

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While these principles affect any behavior in your life, they certainly affect your ability to be th(i)nkful.  That’s why the th(i)nkful logo (bottom) is a tree.  Even with the heat bearing down on me, I know my God’s character, works, and promises and can think thanks in whatever circumstance He places me.

What Type of Tree Are You?

You may not be like the African baobab tree with your ‘crown’ looking like your ‘roots,’ but what would your ‘roots’ look like? Could your existing ‘roots’ support a mature tree that will stand strong in the heat and drought?

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Anxiety Knocking

Anxiety Knocking

The call came right after Katie got back from her lunch break.  The health technician informed her that there were some abnormalities that were discovered in her last scan and that the doctor would like her to come in at her earliest convenience.

She could feel the anxious thoughts knocking. blog on knocking 1They were crowding in and piling on, one over the other. It felt impossible to stop them. It was like a rushing flood of water rising by the second.

  • “Do I have cancer?
  • How much time do I have?
  • What will my family say?
  • Is it going to hurt a lot?”

Activity in My Thinking

Although it happens so quickly, we have a choice in how we respond to a surge of anxious thoughts. Here’s a chart shared by my friend, Kimberly Yoder.

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Thinking is the key!

You are either thinking lies or thinking truth. The tricky part is that thoughts fire quickly and are difficult to separate.

Your thinking begins to affect your desires. You find yourself desiring comfort, control, or to please people. It may not make sense to you at all, but it’s happening nonetheless.

Not only does your thinking affect your desires, but the desires quickly in turn begin to affect your behavior. It’s bound to happen. You express on the outside what is happening on the inside.

Finally the emotions follow in tow. They are more easily noticed. 🙂

In this scenario the phone call presented an invitation to allow anxious thoughts to permeate. Anyone would have concern, no doubt, receiving information of that manner, but there is another way we can choose to process the vacuum of ambiguity that follows such a call. We can choose to think truth (Philippians 4:8).

The Problem of Pondering and Projecting

You may say that the truth is that there are abnormalities and something is amiss in Katie’s body. Yes, that is true. Anxious thoughts usually start with basic information that is true, but they don’t stay there. The anxiety moves on into pondering all of the ‘what if’s.’  Those things are not necessarily true. And anxiety doesn’t stop there. It projects possible outcomes and fears that could be realized, and the tears begin to flow. Now we are dealing with outright falsehoods that have not taken place.

It is a delicate job to discover and unpack “lies” that influence our thinking.blog about knocking 5

The Deceiver is exceptional at suggesting lies that seep into our thinking. Remember how he did it in the Garden of Eden?

  • Has God really said?
  • God doesn’t really want your best.
  • God can’t be trusted.

He loves to sow doubt about the character of God.

How do you unpack hidden lies and deceit that have burrowed deeply into your thinking?  God, through His Word and His Spirit, can help decipher what you are thinking.

 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

When we discover ‘lies’ we are thinking about, we need to remove them and replace them with truth from God’s Word.

Alert Response

Katie pursues truth in this thought-test. Yes, she might have a medical problem. Yes, God is completely aware of all that is happening in her body. Yes, God loves her so much and is trustworthy. Yes, God has things He intends to do in her and through her, no matter the outcome.

She grabs her Bible and begins to search for and actively meditate on God’s truth and to give thanks for the promises she has in Christ.blog about knocking 4

  • God says in Psalm 139 that He has all our days numbered when as yet there was none of them.
  • God has promised to never leave me nor forsake me.  Hebrews 13:5-6.
  • God will use whatever He allows in my life to make me more like Jesus, His Son. Romans 8:28-29.
  • I Corinthians 10:13 gives me the assurance that He has checked the test and will make sure that I can somehow make it.
  • We can give thanks for the things above, trust Him, and begin to look for His fingerprints present. Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:15-17; I Thessalonians 5:18.

The positives help balance the possible negatives; the loving and meticulous providence of God counters the ambiguity. The whole concept of th(i)nkful centers on what you are thinking. There is no way you can be thankful unless you are first thinking the thanks. Somehow it evades us that what goes on in our thoughts affects who we are and what we do – keep a guard on your heart because everything in life flows from it (Proverbs 4:23).

Are you kicking out lies?

Kick out the unwelcome lying thoughts and instead welcome in the thoughts that are true.blog on knocking 6

Thinking Thanks for HOPE

Coronavirus

It’s growing. The number of people dead is increasing daily. a blog on hope 1There are thousands of people infected in multiple countries around the earth.

Everyone seems to be aware of this new epidemic. In a strange, eerie way it connects all of us as humans. We can be as careful as possible, but we are still susceptible.

Wuhan residents, quarantined in the place of the outbreak, are hunkering down in their flats, even shouting out from their windows “Jiayou,” literally meaning add oil, but figuratively encouraging others not to give up.  To hope.

In Need of Hope

You may not get the coronavirus, but you are still in desperate need of hope. Maybe there is a different health challenge, financial reversal, broken relationship, or emotional challenge that plagues you. All of us need HOPE! We need to see that something better is coming, that there is a light at the end of this oppressive darkness. For some who have had a lifetime of shattered and tattered years, this life can’t be all there is. Wrongs need to be made right. Brokenness needs to be mended. Justice must be meted out.a blog on hope 5

We learn in counseling training that the first two goals when working with someone are for them to feel that 1) you really listened and 2) you gave them hope. That sets the stage for them to come back and talk more.

The Object of Hope

Biblical hope is defined as a confident expectation based on someone’s promise. It is not a whimsical “I hope so” wishing that a mystical fate called luck somehow blesses you by chance.

  • We don’t hope in hope, thinking that our good imaginations of the future will create some positive energy that will make it all come true (Matt. 6:27).  That’s above our pay-grade.
  • We have to be careful even about hoping in each other. We fail each other; we come up short; we forget; we have good intentions; we lie. I can have only a guarded hope that someone will keep his or her word (Jer. 17:5).
  • We dare not hope in uncertain riches, and yet many people work and live with their hope anchored in the shifting sands of riches (1 Tim. 6:17; Ps. 62:10; Prov. 23:4-5; Jer. 9:23).

a blog on hope 6Biblical hope is an anchor that grabs onto a rock and won’t let go (Heb. 6:19). Our Rock is the unchanging character of a Person and the promises He makes to people like me.  A hopeful person can hang their full weight on Who they have anchored into just as a person who rappels rests their hope in the rock above them. Jehovah is a God who has a steadfast love for us and He keeps His Word. The Psalmist mentions this dozens of times:

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

His track record of being worthy of our hope and trust is laid out in His Word.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that … through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

The Source of Hope

a blog on hope 3Smart hope is in God. It also comes from God; only He is able to produce sustaining hope in our darkest moments when all other lights have gone out.  He is not just the Creator; He is my Creator (Ps. 139:13-16). He knows my days, has planned my ways (Prov. 16:9), and matched my rugged cross with grace.

The Alpha and the Omega is infinite Mind; He has never learned anything; the minutiae of my entire life is before His eyes at all times. His knowledge of my situation and His steadfast love give me hope; imagine if He slept or got confused or distracted periodically! But no. This God of hope is the sovereign micromanager of my trials (1 Cor. 10:13) and, through His Spirit, He can give me joy and peace in the middle of trouble.

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

Th(i)nkful for Hope

I have seen it.  A child who feels hopeless, suddenly is filled with hope. A situation that looks impossible, all of sudden opens up. a blog on hope 4When sin has pushed us down, and yelled in our ears that we will never be free, the Savior hears our desperate call and picks us up cleansing away unrighteousness.

  1. I am thankful that that hope does not depend on me.
  2. I am thankful that the source of hope loves me and has a detailed plan on how to get me out.
  3. I am thankful that even if it is the end of my earthly days, I will go to be with God forever and ever.
  4. I am thankful that He is using trials in my life to make me like Jesus.
  5. I am thankful that joy will come in the morning.
  6. I am thankful that the Source of hope doesn’t run dry or quit.
  7. Today I am thinking thanks for hope because without it I could not really be th(i)nkful.

 

God-Prints

Hobby Lobby Joy

Elly, Julia, and I walked into Hobby Lobby. We were exhausted. We had one hour before the store closed, and we wanted to be refreshed. These past two weeks of hard work with training and child care had left us a little bedraggled and weary. a god-print 4

As we moved into the fabric section, I said,”Hey, keep an eye open for green material and for something that might have a phrase from Psalm 23.”  I make a new quilt for each of my grandchildren when they turn 12. Our second grandson is next in line for a 12-year-old’s quilt.  I seek to incorporate the 12 year old’s favorite color and Bible-verse in creating a twin size quilt. Austin had chosen green and Psalm 23.

Elly had some great ideas of using fleece-like material to represent the sheep. Julia showed a material that illustrated the valley of the shadow of death. I was getting inspired. 🙂

a God-print 2As we perused the variety of fabrics, my eyes caught this green fabric with something written on it. Could it be?? Was it really?? Yes, it was a green fabric with Psalm 23 printed on it. The whole Psalm!!! So cool. Julia and Elly both were amazed. What a God-print!

Screen Shot 2020-01-20 at 9.13.15 PMDeveloping God-Prints

Have you ever noticed God’s fingerprints? Many people stare right at them but don’t see them. They may see “luck” or “coincidence” because they’re not searching for the print of the person behind a sweet turn of events.

Latent fingerprints are placed wherever our fingers touch another smooth surface. Since the 1930’s, criminal investigators have used the practice of rendering hidden fingerprints visible by using a powder or a chemical agent to make a visual contrast between the ridge patterns and the surface where a fingerprint has been deposited.

a god-print 7If an investigator sees a woman across the way leave her glass at a table, he will not see her fingerprints on the glass from where he is sitting. He will believe they are there, and then investigate so that he can see what he already believes. Jesus said in John 20:29, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet still believe.” Augustine and Anselm echoed this same idea – believe to see, not see to believe.

Believe so that you may see; not see so that you may believe.

If you actively begin searching for the God-prints in your life, it won’t take long. They are all over the place. I love discovering them. Sometimes it is not too obvious, and you have to search intently. Like what investigators do, th(i)nkfulness “dusts” and then lifts the prints of our benevolent God.

I have a special journal in which I record things that are just a little out of the normal, something that has God’s fingerprints all over it. How encouraging it has been to my faith over the years to re-read those entries.  God desires for us to walk in intimacy with Him, trusting Him like a child would a beloved parent. As we nurture that relationship, He reveals Himself in precious ways.

The Print Lab

Screen Shot 2020-01-20 at 8.41.58 PMOnce an investigator has lifted a fingerprint, he or she returns to the lab to compare the prints with the database. The most potent database of God’s fingerprints is in His Word.  God’s Word is alive (Hebrews 4:12). You can read descriptions of His prints and see the circumstances in which they were detected and undetected by people and nations over a period of 1600 years!

Memorizing and meditating frequently on scripture moves His fingerprint data to your mind so that you can compare it with your circumstances at a moment’s notice. You start to see that His hands have touched, well, everything.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights. But God’s gifts are still “good and perfect” even if they are not our favorites. When we choose to trust that God has all things in control and loves us beyond measure, we are in a position to be th(i)nkful. We choose to think thanks for every fingerprint, and as we express that thankfulness, it breeds more gratitude.

Even if the God-Prints Hurt?

It is fine and jolly if all is going well, like finding perfect quilting material at Hobby Lobby. But what about when God allows pain and hurtful things in your life, when the dark things also have His fingerprints? How can I think thanks with tears streaming down my face?

  • God knows when things hurt.
  • He is fully aware of all the nuances of every detail of your pain.
  • He knows how many days you have been given.
  • He even knows what you are going to say next (Psalm 139:4).
  • He has promised to never forsake us. His fingerprints in the darkest valley of sorrow are even more precious.
  • Soon this life will be over. Jesus is coming back for us. How do I know that? Because He promised and He doesn’t lie. He can be trusted completely.
  • He is working on me to better work through me; I need to trust in His “greater good.”

Screen Shot 2020-01-20 at 8.53.58 PMChoose to trust the Lord’s character even when you cannot understand His ways. His fingers have shaped your path, so His fingerprints are there when you commit to searching for them. Think thanks in every God-print, joyful or difficult or frustrating.

Close the Door!

Baboons!

The large male baboon came right in our patio door, up across our bed, scaled a partition wall, and sauntered down on to the kitchen counter. We were standing right there, amazed and a bit afraid!

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Around the Drakensberg Mountains there are many troops of baboons. They meander the hillsides looking for anything edible. They are not aggressive unless attacked; it has been rumored that three baboons can take down a leopard.

Recently, my husband took me away for a two-night get away at a chalet in the Giant’s Castle Nature Reserve. It was lovely. The first night we had beautiful clear weather and got to fit in lots of hiking, drinking in God’s beauty in those magnificent mountains.a baboob blog 2

The next morning we got our surprise visit from this large baboon who rummaged through out kitchen shelves, helping himself to some Scandinavian knekkebrød and Fisherman’s Friend lozenges. Haha! He promptly spit out the lozenges, but the plastic bag with the knekkebrød interested him enough to take along as he scooted out the patio door.

We were sorry that we didn’t get it on camera, but joked around that the guy had quite the nerve to come maneuvering in while we were standing right there. The incident caused us to be more cautious to close the door completely as we moved in and out.

The next morning, I was sitting having my Bible time, when all of a sudden there was a loud sound at the patio door. The baboon was back and tried to open the closed door. Sadly for him the door was too hard for him to pull. No more knekkebrød for you, buddy.

Thinkful Lesson

I wonder how many “doors of the mind” we leave open, allowing the baboons of ingratitude in.  They slip in and start rummaging through everything in your life – “What is this?!  This is no good!  There isn’t enough of the good stuff here for me!  I’ll take this and this, and no, I won’t say thank you or acknowledge anyone else. This is all about me.” An unexamined heart and mind is no little thing. The baboon of ingratitude has to be kept outside!a baboon blog 3The baboon seemed so matter-of-fact, but he was a thief.  So is ingratitude – he steals away the good things you have all around you.  The things he leaves are polluted with his dirty feet, hands, and bottom; he coats your wonderful lozenges with saliva so they’re no good anymore.

That baboon had been in that chalet many times to grab things; his fear of authority had been overcome by the pleasure of his scavenging habit.  Even so, ingratitude can make a home in your mind, feeling that all your stuff is his stuff, caring not one bit that neither God nor you want him soiling your thoughts.

As the plaque on the chalet wall instructed us:

“You feed the baboons.
We shoot them.”

a baboon blogpost 7We were not trying to feed the baboons. We were getting ready to have breakfast and I had not even gotten the flatbread out of the plastic bag. 🙂  But the owners of the chalet knew that baboons must be kept out, must not be encouraged, and if need be, must be shot dead. So it is with ingratitude – keep it out, do not feed it, and if it is making a habit of entering your mind at will, you need to shoot it dead.

Close the Door to Ingratitude?

You get to choose what you think about. I know you feel like you can’t really control your thoughts, but that is a falsehood. You decide. Through the habit of ingratitude, you may have nurtured a network of neural pathways into your brain. It feels like your fault-finding, irritated, complaining thoughts jump in quickly and automatic and you have to just hang on.  Not so.  Take courage.  You do what you do … because you think what you think … because you want what you want.  🙂  You can, with God’s help, choose differently.a baboon blogpost 6

Instead let there be thanksgiving.

Ephesians 5:4b

When we decide, only with Christ’s strength, to forge a gratitude neural pathway, we have to close the door to the baboons of ingratitude.  It will try to push its way in, but you must see him as the enemy and not a furry friend who needs feeding.

Close the door!

Recounting

Jewelry from River Grass

Recount.jpg

The tall grass in the river flowing by 7 Rivers Farm here in South Africa produces seeds, which local girls are turning into beaded jewelry for sale locally and overseas.

The Zulu call these chwabasi beads; in some places they are called imfibinga. They come in different shades of brown and gray, and we combine them with glass beads to make some absolutely stunning necklaces, bracelets, and now the latest addition ~ ear-rings.:)Recount 5

Our girls are learning a job skill, making an income, and learning budgeting as well. The Bead Shop, begun in January of 2017, is the first job-skills development project implemented at 7 Rivers, and hopefully the first of many to come.

Recount ~ Count Again

I am so excited to see these local women using local resources to create things that can be sold all over the world, and earn an income in the process. Cherise Smith has come up with some beautiful designs that the local girls are creating. Check out the Bead Shop link.Recount 3

But the training wasn’t easy at the beginning. Many of the ladies struggled with counting, with getting the repeating pattern correct, and with getting the lengths uniform. Often, necklaces had to be broken up; they had to start all over again. They needed to count and recount carefully; to consider and reconsider carefully.

We Need to Count and Recount

Counting reminds me of the discipline of being th(i)nkful. I have to learn to stop and count, not something I am making, but what God is making of me. There are light beads – I need to count my blessings. There are dark beads – I need to count it joy when I have trials. This mixture of bright and dark, of drab and colorful, is what makes a beautiful necklace. And what makes a beautiful life.

Recounting reminds me of taking the time to thoughtfully consider what God has done in me over time. Yes, I count as the days go by, but perhaps at Thanksgiving, or at the New Year, or on an anniversary, it is good for me to recount – to replay, reconsider, analyze and synthesize – what God is doing; to be thankful for the bigger picture He is revealing.

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” Psalm 9:1; see also 75:1 and 79:13

Thanksgiving Week

recount 2

This week is Thanksgiving week in the States. Families are usually trying to get together. There will be good food and times of giving thanks. Churches will often spend a service recounting thanks to God for what He is and what He has done.

In our home, we would have a thanksgiving scripture printed on a card for each person at their place setting that they could read orally between dinner and dessert and then share a thing they were thankful for.

But it doesn’t require a national holiday to recount our thanks to the Lord. Every morning when you wake, your mind can recount God’s wonderful deeds – just that you actually woke up. That is a good start. You have been given the gift of another day!

I choose to give thanks.

One of the reasons David the Psalmist was a man after God’s own heart is that he recounted the wondrous deeds of God. A Psalm often begins with him pouring out his fears and frustrations to the Lord … and then midway through, he begins to get God’s perspective on life and what is going on in his circumstances. He starts to recount the steadfast character of God and His blessings on us, His children.

recount 4Let’s pretend we are threading a th(i)nkful necklace with the 7 Rivers ladies. And let’s say that there are 7 beads in a set that we need to repeat to eventually make into a lovely necklace. Here are the 7 beads – repeat them 10 times:

  1. I am loved with an everlasting love
  2. I am forgiven of everything through the sacrifice of Jesus, His beloved Son
  3. I am important to Him
  4. I am being watched and studied by two spiritual kingdoms and several people
  5. I am being conformed to the image of Jesus
  6. He is coming back soon for me, for all of His children
  7. He has given us His Word and His Spirit to guide us until then

Just as the precious Zulu ladies count and recount their chwabasi beads to get it just right, we should be counting and recounting the blessings of our Creator.Recount 7

Choosing Gratitude

The Christian Captain from the Townships

It’s a pretty exciting time here in South Africa – we just won the Rugby World Cup! Choosing gratitude 12What’s just as noteworthy is that our first black captain, Siya Kolisi, led the team to the top. He is a Jesus-follower and rose from very humble beginnings.

In the old Apartheid South Africa (1948-1992), white people lived in the suburbs and worked in the cities. Blacks lived segregated in “townships” ringing the cities – places of poverty and crime, tiny homes and tin shacks crammed close together, poor public services, and dismal education.

Siya grew up in the Zwide township of Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  He was raised by his grandmother and was often unsure if he would have anything to eat during the day.  His favorite toy was a brick.

Reflecting on his childhood, Siya insists he was given the most important things in life – “love and support.” He frequently uses the word “tough” to describe his childhood, yet admits he didn’t realize it was so hard at the time; it was simply all he knew.

choosing gratitude 13He “fell off the wagon” a bit during his teen years even though he identified himself as a Christian. Eventually, he chose to be grateful for what he had, and began to work hard.

“While struggling with a lot of things personally — temptations, sins and lifestyle choices — I realized I wasn’t living according to what I was calling myself: a follower of Christ. I was getting by, but I hadn’t decided to fully commit myself to Jesus Christ and start living according to His way.

Walking alongside a spiritual mentor, I’ve been able to discover the truth and saving power of Christ in a whole new way. This new life has given me a peace in my heart I’d never experienced before. I don’t have to understand everything in life, and there are so many things I don’t, but I know God is in control of it all. My job is to do the best I can and leave the rest in His hands.”  – Siya Kolisi

Thankfulness? In South Africa?

Many people here consider this a struggle. Due to systemic corruption, unmanageable debt, the collapse of the electrical grid, and chronic crime, thousands of skilled South Africans are emigrating every month because they see a collapse coming.  About 15% of the houses on the market now are families leaving.

In a recent sermon series on a scriptural view of emigration, Pastor Des Venter spoke frankly about contentment. Contentment is wanting what you already have. It is focusing on and celebrating the good things in your God-given status quo.  He said we will not be content in another place if we have not learned to be content with our present place. Contentment comes from within.

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13 that he had learned to be content in whatever situation he was in. He had learned how to be poor and how to cope with an abundance of funds. He had learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Outside circumstances were beside the point; he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him.

Gratitude Creates Contentment

When you begin to incorporate thinking thanks about your present reality, you foster contentment in your ‘now.’ Many of us are problem-solvers; the downside of that is that we find no rest in our spirit until our issues are sorted out. Stopping for a minute and thinking thanks adds weight to the positive side of the scale and brings you back toward balance.Choosing-Gratitude

In expressing gratitude, your circumstances do not change, your mindset does.

Many South Africans are feeling much better about their country … simply because we won the rugby world cup. Why is that? Because we finally had something positive to focus on, and with hearts of gratitude, our outlook on our other and greater challenges somehow seems more positive.

Choosing to speak out and write down your thankfulness in the midst of hardships takes both hard work and a work of God’s grace. The Lord begins to knit your expressions of thanks into a beautiful creation that only He could provide the fortitude to accomplish.

“… Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ephesians 5:20

Screen Shot 2019-11-05 at 7.46.15 PMThe Choice of Gratitude

“For every Joni Eareckson Tada or Corrie ten Boom, there are countless others whose names and stories few have ever heard, who endure the worst that life has to offer and still come up thankful. Not unscarred, not unmoved, not functioning out of reality like robots, but still spotting reasons for hope and promise. They seem to know that the only thing more debilitating than what they’re going through would be going through it ungratefully.

No, the days don’t always get easier. The nights can still drag until utter exhaustion finally pulls a person under for a few hours’ sleep. But those who say “No” to resentment and “Yes” to gratitude, even in the face of excruciating pain, incomprehensible loss, and ongoing adversity, are the ones who really survive. They stand against the tide of memories, threats, loss, and sadness, and answer back. With gratitude.”

From Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy
By Nancy Leigh DeMoss

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“They seem to know that the only thing more debilitating than what they’re going through would be going through it ungratefully.” 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss

 

New Pathways

Your Brain and Your Mind

a post on working hard 1Let’s do an experiment. Using your left index finger, point to your brain. Now using your right index finger, point to your mind.

You paused. Yes, you did. We don’t necessarily think of our brain and mind as being the same thing. And they are different.

My husband will ask his students, “Does God have a brain?” and they pause. To say God is brainless just seems so wrong, but they know God is spirit, and a brain is a physical organ, so no, He doesn’t have a brain. David makes fun of the student for a while, but they are correct. God is infinite Mind, but has no brain.

In understanding the relationship between brain and mind, I like the analogy of a horse and an expert rider.  The two work together as one; when you hurt one, the other is affected as well. One day, your brain – that three-pound slab of tofu – will die with the rest of your mortal body … but your mind, an integral part of the soul-spirit, will live on.

Renewing Your Brain

Now. Here is something amazing. Renewing your mind can also renew your brain.

MIND: You have probably heard about renewing the mind, but let’s review quickly. Paul writes about it in several places:

  • Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind …”
  • Ephesians 4:22-24 – ” … put off your old self … and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God …”
  • Colossians 3:10 – “… having put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

The Lord is our owner; He bought us back. As with any computer or animal that you have acquired from someone else, or a child that you’ve adopted, there is a certain amount of reprogramming that needs to be done to stop the harmful old ways and dysfunctions and build in some new patterns.

We work, with God’s help, to put off old patterns of thought, speech and action. We put on new patterns that both honor God and are better for us. This re-patterning is called renewing the mind.  I love how this concept is developed in How People Change by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp. We don’t have to remain as we are.

BRAIN: But, how you choose to think about things also changes the physical structure – “the wiring” – in your brain.  In 1949, Donald Hebb, a Canadian neuropsychologist, wrote what has become known as Hebb’s axiom:

“Neurons that fire together wire together.”

Endoscope - neuronsThis is an actual endoscope photograph of neurons that have touched so many times, they have now formed synapses and connected. Whatever the thoughts were, they have now become a pattern … for better or worse.

Now follow me. Things we experience – whether a feeling, a thought, a sensation – flow like electrical charges through thousands of neurons (wires) that are arranged in a network. The ends of these neurons, called dendrites, are where electrical charges jump across to another neuron.

OK, a new thought pattern now enters, like choosing to be th(i)nkful.  Repeated charges shooting between two dendrites amazingly will form a new piece, called a synapse, that connects the neurons together to make a new pathway so that those thoughts or reactions will recur more frequently. This is why certain sounds or smells can trigger good memories or bad, and create giddiness or fear.

Hebb’s Rule explains that renewing the mind and renewing the structure of the brain go hand in hand. His research supports biblical truth. You can shape your brain’s neuronal architecture by choosing what you focus on.

A Testimony – Reshaping the Brain by Being Thinkful

I had someone send me this encouraging note regarding how she sought to implement thinking thanks in her life:a brain pathway

The practice of thinking thanks that I learned that day at your seminar has been life transforming. It has been the thing that has gotten me through difficult times. At first it was hard work. My mind would drift off my thankful list down a dark pathway of “what if’s” and I would have to pull myself back. But now it really has become a habit, and therefore it gets easier and easier! PTL for those new pathways in my brain. They have allowed me to sleep and work through difficult times. It is so amazing how God made our brain! Thank you for sharing these great principles with us!

Practicing thinking thanks even when it is quite hard to do so, will bring results. It will get easier as you develop the brain neural pathway of th(i)nkfulness.

Just Right Thinking Is Not Enough

Our relationship to Christ is not simply based on thinking His thoughts and acting the way He does. a worshipper

“We are more than thinkers. We are worshipers who enter into relationship with the person or thing we think will give us life. Jesus comes to transform our entire being, not just our mind. He comes as a person, not as a cognitive concept we insert into a new formula for life.”

(How People Change, Tim Lane/Paul Tripp)

Let God renew your mind and fill it with thankfulness. But go beyond merely seeing His hand or the greater good in your circumstances. Let your thanks be turned into worship of the Creator, loving Him for His names and attributes. Worship your Lord through your thinking.