Recounting

Jewelry from River Grass

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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

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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.

It Didn’t Happen

It Didn’t Happen!

Driving our truck into Durban to file some papers with the Durban municipality, I hit and killed a pedestrian. Distraught after speaking with the police, I drove up two blocks and was hi-jacked at gunpoint at a traffic light.

STOP!

No, I was not part of those two incidents.  But I did realize that I had forgotten my ID documents that I needed for the municipality and had to turn around and go home to fetch them.

My husband shared this scenario with me the other day. Instead of voicing his frustration about forgetting the ID documents, he gave thanks for things that didn’t happen on the way to Durban.

An Anxiety Study

Dr. Don Joseph Goewey conducted some research about anxiety awhile back and found that:

  • 85% of things we worry about never happen;
  • Of the 15% that did happen, 79% of the people found that they were able to handle the difficulty better than they thought, OR that the difficulty taught them lessons worth learning
  • So, he concluded that “97% of what we worry about is just a fearful mind punishing us with exaggerations and misconceptions.”

“My life has been filled with terrible misfortune, most of which never happened.”
Michel de Montaigne

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”
Corrie Ten Boom

Resisting The “What Ifs”

I remember, when my 4-year-old daughter and I were part of an attempted hijacking in Johannesburg, that afterwards I struggled hard with wanting to think out scenarios that could have happened.  I realized then the genius and beauty of that first phrase in Philippians 4:8 – think about what is true!philippians4_8bThe truth was that I did not get shot. The car wasn’t taken. Elly wasn’t kidnapped. We did not even get physically injured. I did have a visual image of a man holding a handgun that I will have for the rest of my life, but the Lord has helped me work through it.

Happenings Highlight Non-happenings

 

This is my friend Elaine. In the second picture she is getting stitches in her finger. You may wonder why I would highlight this difficult challenge that she is going through. I want you to read what she wrote as she updated people on her accident:

“Dominic, Karissa and I were breaking up her tile floor to replace it. While throwing pieces in a bucket I accidentally scraped my hand on a sharp piece of scrap tile. It cut through my glove and cut a nice deep slice in my index finger on my left hand. 6 stitches put me back together again! So thankful it doesn’t hurt today!!! We have done A LOT of construction projects over the years and never have had an accident! Funny how we don’t think about what God has protected us from until there is an injury. But even in the injury I am thankful that God protected this from being worse…no cut tendons or other important parts!! God is good and today, I thank Him for what He DOESN’T allow to happen!”

One of the blessings of getting hurt or being sick is that it often can highlight so many things that we take for granted. It is good for us to remember and to express gratitude.

A blog on noThank You, God for all the hard things that didn’t happen today!

Th(i)nkful for Birds

A Command To Think About Birds

Did you know that God has told us to study the birds?

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 6:26

Birds in South Africa

Our teammates, Alan and Deanna Heathcote, take really good pictures of birds. 🙂 They have built up quite a collection of detailed photos of different unique birds found in South Africa and they post them on Facebook. I love to look at them. I asked if I could share a few of my favorites, and they gladly said it was ok.

This is my personal favorite, the Lilac Breasted Roller. They say you can find 23 colors on this bird that is about the size of a Robin. It is called a “roller” because during mating season the males fly up high, pull in their wings and tumble down through the air as though facing certain death, and then spread their wings and pull out at the last minute! And all the girls go, “Whoah! What a guy!”a bird blog 2

This the Pied Kingfisher. It has the uncanny ability to hover over the water and then dive down and get a fish.a-bird-blog-1.jpg

Deanna even shared some spiritual lessons that we can learn from birds. I added the pictures of the Southern Double-Collared Sunbirds.

1. God’s Care:
  • Not one of them falls to the ground without His knowledge/will (Matthew 10:29, Luke 12:6)
  • They have their food provided by Him (Matthew 6:26).
  • I like the mention of sparrows because there are sparrows in the township, and they build nests in the wall next to the church. I often think how lovely it is that even the poor folks there can see a sparrow and be reminded of the truths of these verses.
2. God’s Creativity/Infinity:
  • As you seek to identify a bird, you have to notice things which may distinguish it from another: color of the eyes, legs, or bill; or placement of certain colors on feathers.
  • There is also variety in whether the male and female have the same or different plumage. In some cases, the difference is quite subtle (e.g. the Pied Kingfisher, the male has an extra line of black on the feathers across his chest).
  • Also there can be drastic or subtle changes between juvenile and adult. These are Southern Double-Collared Sunbirds, in which case the youth looks like he lost in a game of paintball.

 

  • In the Speckled Mousebird, the juvenile has a bill with a light-colored upper mandible and a black lower mandible. Once an adult, the color is reversed.
  • Why did God create such variety? It certainly doesn’t seem necessary. I often think that it is because He created the world knowing the mental abilities He would give to mankind and the ability to study and seek out His wonders. (Psalm 111:2)
3. God’s Purposes:
  • He gave each bird its own diet, habitat, call, breeding pattern, social habits, “personality” (shy/hiding vs. easily spotted; quiet vs. chatty), nest style/placement, etc.
  • He constructed each one with a bill, feet, feathers, bone structure, etc. to suit the “lifestyle” He chose for them.

This a male Malachite Sunbird. The fluorescent green is certainly eye catching especially if seen in the sunlight.

a bird blog

Joshua, our son, gave me a video once of different South African birds and their individual calls. I found it so relaxing to watch the birds and hear the sounds they made. We sure have an incredible Creator.

a bird 3I once saw a Hoopoe like this one pick up a worm that it found and promptly give it to another bird beside it. Fancy head plumage and a willingness to share – surely a winning combination! 🙂

So What’s The Connection?

How can studying birds make us thankful? The Lord said that we could receive hope from looking at the birds because we are worth so much more to the Lord than birds.  If He cares so tenderly for even the smallest sparrow, just imagine the concern He has for us.a bird blog 5

You, my friend, are being cared for by the same Lord God that provides for the birds. That is something to be very th(i)nkful for.

He says that He has numbered all the hairs on our head (Matthew 12:30). He knows everything about us, even what we are going to say next (Psalm 139:4)!!

His eye is on the sparrow and I know He cares for me.

I am th(i)nkful for birds and the lessons they teach us on how to trust in our Creator God.

 

a bird 2

Doing Th(i)nkful

A Shocking Hypothetical

The first “Th(i)nkful” Seminar ever was on October 18, 2015, in North Wilkesboro, NC, where my dear friend, Joanna Chapmon, hosted a ladies’ afternoon.  I explained and illustrated the skill and benefits of thinking thanks.

Then came the closing exercise.  “Each of you has just been diagnosed with third stage cancer. Now, write down on your 3×5 card three things that you’re thankful for in this difficult situation.” Stunned looks turned to thoughtful stares and slowly they began to write. A few minutes later, we were all blessed by the myriad insights the ladies had in response to this hypothetical difficulty.

 

Th(i)nkful in Action

Now, let me introduce you to Nancy. aa Nancy Krick She and her husband are walking through a valley of challenge as her husband Mike deals with 4th stage pancreatic cancer.  Nancy is an RN working for the Carolina Center for Behavioral Health.

Since they have been our friends for decades, we prayed when the diagnosis came; we prayed through the treatments; we prayed through the good news; we prayed through the bad news.

Recently, when Mike went through a difficult day of surgery, we prayed again.  The next morning I woke to read this Facebook post by Nancy:

Thank you Lord for the blessings of this difficult day.
1. The cadre of believers that surrounded me to carry the load and distract me during surgery
2. The folks that brought me bags of snacks
3. The folks that brought me drinks, change for the vending machine and gave of their precious time to encourage me with their presence.
4. Our surgical oncologist Dr. Nguyen who is immensely skilled and so very kind and compassionate.
5. The friends that wanted to come visit and weren’t offended when we ask them to visit us another day.
6. Michael’s OB/GYN who stopped by twice today to check on him ( if you want to know ask)
7. Our sweet nurse Lisa who did everything she could to help Michael be as comfortable and well taken care of as possible. We are thankful she will be his nurse tomorrow too. And NO she WAS NOT PLAYING CARDS!!!
8. So very, very, thankful for our Pastor Mike Hamlet who was with us at 6:30AM during check in and pre-op and then came back this afternoon because we were struggling and needed his comfort and prayers.
9. For all of you reading this who prayed before, during, and after the surgery. We thank God for you. You have lightened our burden and we are so grateful for you!
10. Karin Brown, we are thinkful.❣

aablog-on-nancy-k..jpgNancy is wisely putting into action being thankful in all circumstances. She is carving the brain neural pathway of looking for things to think thanks about and expressing them.

So, I’m praising God and giving a shout-out to Nancy, saying “well done!”  I feel Nancy is miles ahead of me in implementing thankfulness.  I know it’s so hard for her, and yet she is choosing to download the grace to winnow through the glass chards of broken hopes to think gratitude. She can do this with confidence because God is trustworthy and sovereign.

Doer of the Word

Are you actively practicing being th(i)nkful – giving thanks in all things? Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  He spoke with authority; the people were astonished.  Jesus ended his talk by using a powerful seaside contrast between the wise man and the foolish man. Remember singing about this as a kid?

The wise man and the foolish had both heard the same messenger and the same message in the same presentation. One acknowledged, but the other implemented.  The former felt that he knew better and shaped his life accordingly.  It was all great until the storm. The wise man’s house stood on boring rock, back from the edge … and did just fine in the storm.

Be careful of the deception that James wrote about … thinking that because we hear something we really own it (James 1:22). To know you should be giving thanks is not the same as doing it. How can you and your family create a habit of being th(i)nkful?

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

 

Singing at My Execution

Arrested by Law

Bali9Andrew Chan was one of the ringleaders of the Bali Nine, a group of Australians who were convicted for smuggling 8.3 kg of heroin out of Indonesia in April 2005. Indonesia is tough on drug offenders. When convicted, Andrew became desperate. He wanted to die, but was afraid to face eternity because of something in the back of his mind from his childhood.

When Andrew was younger, growing up in a Buddhist home in Sydney, Australia, a neighbor named Luke took him to Sunday School, and Andrew heard the gospel clearly presented. What if there really was a life after death?

Arrested By Grace

Andrew asked the guards for a Bible and began reading voraciously.  With a little guidance from Luke who visited the prison, Andrew came to saving faith.  The gospel transformed him completely.

A short time later, the sentences were announced: most of the nine received life sentences; Chan and the other ringleader received the death penalty. Puzzling God’s purposes, Andrew poured himself into ministry. As he appealed his sentence, he used the next 10 years of his life to lead over 200 prisoners to the Lord, baptize them, run Bible-studies, finish seminary online; he even started a church within the prison!

“So I suppose I’m thankful that every day I actually get to wake up. As you know, I’m studying and, you know, a lot of people might say that it’s probably no use. Look where you’re staying!  But I believe God has given me this time for a purpose.” Andrew Chan, 2012 interview

A1 Bali Execution Song 1Finishing With Worship

Andrew did two things just hours before he died: he married his sweetheart, Febyanti Herewila, and prepared a eulogy to be read at his funeral in Sydney. He was executed for his crimes on Indonesia’s “Death Island” on April 29, 2015.

But Andrew was a man ready to meet his Maker.  Dispelling fear, he led the other prisoners in singing praises to the Lord as the firing squad made ready.  They were on the second verse of 10,000 Reasons when the shots fired.

You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind …

Dispelling Fear by Calling The Name

In my last blogpost, I emphasized the second phrase in Psalm 69:30: “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” When we magnify the Lord, His hiddenness dissolves and His presence becomes more obvious.

aa Name Dispels FearBut in the first phrase, the Psalmist states he will sing praise to the name of the Lord. In fact, devout Jews refer to God only as “Hashem” – the Name. Proverbs 18:10 likens the name of the Lord to a strong tower; a person who runs to it is safe.

Angst and fear become fidgety around the name of Jesus.  They are unwelcome and ill-fitting guests in His company.  Like darkness that cannot fight back against light, anxiety begins to fade.

Have you ever sung a song that uses the names of God? Remember Jesus, Name Above All Names? My husband wrote a few more verses for that song highlighting more names of the Lord.

Jesus, Name Above All Names

Jesus, Name above all names,
Beautiful Savior, Glorious Lord,
Emmanuel, God is with us,
Blessed Redeemer, Living Word.

Jesus, Splendid Creator,
Mighty Sustainer, Sov’reign of all that is,
The Cornerstone, Daystar and Dayspring,
Wonderful Couns’lor, Prince of Peace.

Jesus, Lion of Judah,
Root of Jesse, humble Nazarene,
Anointed One, Son of David,
Blessed Messiah, Coming King.

Jesus, Man of Sorrows,
Kinsman Redeemer, scorned and rejected,
The Lamb of God, spotless yet suffering,
Buried, then risen up from the grave.

Jesus, Faithful and True One,
Alpha, Omega, Ancient of Days,
The angels, falling before Thee,
Join with our voices, echo our praise.

In the morning when I worship the Lord in thanksgiving, I love to rehearse the names of the Lord:  “You are Elohim, El Elyon, El Shaddai, El Roi, Adonai, Yahweh, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Rapha, Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Sabaoth, Jehovah Mekoddishkem, Jehovah Tsidkenu, Jehovah Rohi, Jehovah Shammah.”

How about creatively designing a thanksgiving song of your own focusing on the Names of God that dispel fear?

A1 Bali 8

Magnify

To Make Larger

Isn’t it fun to see beautiful and intricate details become larger?

a-blog-on-magnifying-3.jpg

The object remains the same size but we make it appear larger by using a lens or electronic device. We see minutiae that was hidden. Tiny particles and movements proudly take their place on a broader stage for all to see.  Your life may have been saved due to man’s ability to magnify.

Speech That Magnifies

We can make something larger with our words, too. I know, you immediately think about the fish stories men tell, but I am not referring to lying or stretching the truth. I mean that we can speak about truths that people have never noticed, or have forgotten, or that have become lost in the spinning morass of competing ideas. God is such an idea, and we can magnify Him by giving thanks to Him in the company of those who seldom think about Him.

The Hiddenness of God

God is not small. But God is hidden. Can’t see Him. Can’t touch Him. Can’t hear Him. An increasing number of people in the world believe He does not even exist because He cannot be detected using the scientific method and our amazing technology.

Even Job, in ancient days, complained, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him” (Job 23:8-9).

Moses wrote “The secret things belong to the Lord,” and Solomon said, “It is the glory of God to conceal things” (Prov. 25:2), and Isaiah wrote “Truly, you are a God who hides himself” (Is. 45:15).

a blog on magnify 9God is this way by design, hiding Himself from the casual browser and revealing Himself only to those who truly dig and work hard to discover Him for themselves, like those who search for golden rocks in South Africa’s mines.

Moses told Israel, one day, “you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 4:29). Almost 3,000 years later, a 17th century French Christian philosopher highlighted the same idea.

“[God] determined that it was not right that He should appear in an obviously divine manner, completely capable of convincing all men; but it was also not right that He should come in so hidden a manner that He could not be known by those who were sincerely seeking Him.  

He has, therefore, willed to make himself quite recognizable and willing to appear openly to those who seek Him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from Him with all their heart. He so regulates the knowledge of Himself that He has given signs of Himself, visible to those who seek Him, and not to those who do not seek Him.”  – Blaise Pascal

Magnifying the Lord

So, our God is hidden – out of sight, out of mind to the world around us. What can we do?

We can season a conversation ever so humbly and tastefully by openly giving thanks to God for … whatever fits … our kids, for a clean bill of health, for our marriage, for a job, for the accident we just avoided, for the peace we feel knowing God is in control, for a confident expectation beyond the grave. Expressing thanks to God, without debating His existence, opens the door for the Spirit of God to confirm to an unbelieving heart that He is there.

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
Psalm 69:30

How do you make God bigger by being th(i)nkful?  The Hebrew word in the above verse for magnify is gadal.  It means: to advance, boast, bring up, exceed, lift up, increase, promote. It is actually a marketing term.

When we speak up and say we’re thankful to God, we magnify Him. Our words focus a mental lens on the God that others have failed to notice. All of a sudden – whoah! – there is God … behind that thing that is going well … behind that virtue you learned in the hard times.

coffee-meeting

What Do You Magnify?

Chances are you magnify something. It begins with what you focus on in your mind. You dwell on it. You’re intrigued by it. You study it out. You worship it in that you give it ‘worth’ in your thought-time priority.

And then you speak … and cause others to push back the clutter and focus on it as well.

Time to magnify God.

Start today.

Envelop Thanks

Envelop?

The scent was faint at first, but slowly the delicious smell grew stronger as the Swedish Tea Ring was baking in the kitchen. The tantalizing odor enveloped me as I studied in the next room.

Have you ever used the verb envelop?

Envelop: to wrap around something completely; to surround, either literally or figuratively

Literally, fog can envelop a city, or a mom can envelop her child. Figuratively, peace can envelop your mind, or Christ can envelop your life. In fact, the Apostle Paul’s use of “in Christ” and “in the Spirit” has this idea of enveloping a person totally.

Envelop Your Prayers

Thankfulness should wrap around our prayers completely.  When I come to God with my circumstances or with people that I am lifting up to Him, I am giving Him no new information – He knows and has ordained what is happening.  In reality, I can bring Him two things: thankfulness for the situation or person, and a petition for His help. To truly envelop a prayer with thanksgiving, you start with it and end with it.

This is the key difference between praying to a sovereign God and asking favors from the genie of the lamp. Many Christians treat God like a genie: “Please do this, and do that, and when you’re done, I need this as well.”  There is no recognition that the genie has caused our circumstances for His glory and our good, and we don’t say thanks because the genie is our servant.  It is said that if we treat our friends like we treat our God we wouldn’t have friends. To say thanks is to fully acknowledge that He is in control and is working out a perfectly calculated plan.

So, we should begin and end our prayer with thankfulness. Paul gives us multiple examples of praying with thanksgiving.

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2

“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

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Paul also demonstrates how he envelops his prayers with thankfulness when praying for people.

  • First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world (Romans 1:8)
  • I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus (I Corinthians 1:4)
  • I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers (Ephesians 1:16)
  • We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you (Colossians 1:3)
  • We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers (I Thessalonians 1:2)
  • We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing (2 Thessalonians 1:3)
  • First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people (I Timothy 2:1)
  • I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers (Philemon 1:4)

Trust Foundation

One key to praying thankfully is having the “foundation of trust” in good shape. I am currently working through Ole Hallesby’s book on Prayer and he writes:

“We realize that this deficiency in our prayer life is really due to the fact that we do not trust our blessed Lord. We think that we understand better than He does when and how our prayers should be answered.”

In order to envelop thanksgiving into our prayers, we have to trust the Lord God with all our mind, soul, and heart. He is completely trustworthy. On that basis I can be th(i)nkful and agree to receive what He is doing in my circumstances, though I don’t understand the whys and what fors, and may never understand them.

Th(i)nkful for Carmen

Her life is not easy.  She has difficulties that many of us are not familiar with. Carmen Praying 1But our friend Carmen loves God and runs to Him in prayer, with thankfulness.

This precious lady in Pennsylvania is a prayer warrior for us and the mission work here in South Africa. She thanks God on our behalf and provides prayer cover for us continually.

She is growing spiritually and envelops her prayers to the Lord with thinking thanks. And I reciprocate, thanking my Lord for her as I lift my prayer to Him.

So How Do You Start?

The beauty of being th(i)nkful is that it is not hard. Even if you have not been in the habit of enveloping your requests to God with th(i)nkfulness, just start with one thing. Here are some examples:

  • Thank You, God, for the people who pray for me
  • Thank you, God, for the opportunity to trust you and your character today
  • Thank you, God, that I am not alone in my struggles, but I can come to you
  • Thank you for the access and freedom I have, through Jesus, to come boldly to the throne of grace
  • Thank you for the grace that is helping me start a new neural pathway of thinking thanks
  • Thank you for the person that shared the good news of hope with me

Why not start right now in enveloping a prayer to God with thankfulness?

Thankful and Anxious?

Can You Be Thankful and Anxious?

No!

They don’t go together. You probably already knew that, but I wanted to highlight it for you. 🙂

Research has shown that gratitude cannot co-exist with fear. It turns out that gratitude and compassion can be powerful natural remedies to anxiety.

Jennifer Miller

In Zulu, we would say that they chase each other. Ziyaxosha. adorable picture of cat being chasedThink of a dog chasing a cat. The cat has no desire to stay put if a huge German Shepard is charging its way.

What a great mental image for us to ponder. If you are consciously pursuing a brain neural pathway of thinking thanks, a natural result is that anxious thoughts move on quickly.

Chasing Anxiety

Philippians 4:6 strongly encourages us to not be anxious about anything.  Instead we are to pour our hearts out to the Lord with thankfulness. That is our part. But then our living and listening God responds.

The Lord rewards us by infusing our minds with a peace that “surpasses all understanding” – literally, a peace that stands out, rises above, and is better than normal human comprehension, thinking, feeling, or reason.  And that peace puts a shield around our hearts (emotions) and minds (ponderings).

I would call that a pretty good deal for us!  Just remember that, at times, God’s peace is so beyond understanding that others will think that we are in denial or blocking things out or moving into abnormal psychology.  But we’re not.  We’re just being resolutely thankful to a God who, in His meticulous providence, ordered things as they are for me right now.

Turning Knowledge Into a Skill

So if I am convinced that it would be good for me to work on becoming thinkful, how do I develop that skill?  You have to retrain your brain through repetition – we do this with anxiety, so we can also do it with thankfulness.

Here’s a good idea from Tanya J. Peterson:

Play a Gratitude Game to Help Anxiety

True gratitude is about more than saying thanks. A grateful mindset is developed purposefully and with practice. By playing a gratitude game, you begin to shift your focus away from anxiety and onto other, more positive, aspects of your life.

The game is an ongoing scavenger hunt. You will need:

  • The Scavenger Hunt List below (print it or copy them down);
  • Something to hold one challenge on each page 112a(like a journal or a ring with index cards).

The Scavenger Hunt List contains challenges – positive things, people, situations, and concepts to purposefully seek out and write down what you’re thankful for. Take the list and write one challenge on each page or card, and you’re ready to begin.

Now, look for at least one thing every day. Approach it playfully. When you look for things to be thankful for, your thoughts begin to drift away from anxieties.

Your Gratitude Scavenger Hunt List:

  • Unexpected down time (What did you do?)
  • Someone who makes you laugh
  • Spending time with a friend
  • Something that went well today
  • A chance to do something nice for someone else
  • A personal trait
  • Someone who is a positive part of your life
  • A cherished photo
  • A talent you have
  • Writing a letter of gratitude to someone
  • Stopping and smelling the roses
  • A chance to do something nice for yourself
  • Time spent outdoors
  • An opportunity to make someone feel heard
  • Something that brought a smile to your face today
  • A fond memory
  • An evening spent with friends/family with no electronics
  • Something that someone did for you
  • Your ability to perform a random act of kindness
  • A teacher who inspired you
  • A kind comment someone said to you
  • Someone who listened to you
  • Hearing someone laugh
  • Laughing

The shift of perspective that comes with gratitude helps anxiety because it changes where you look and how you think. It’s a way of beating anxiety at its own game.

I would encourage you to get a journal of any size or shape and just start recording things that you are thinkful for. Let this simple game be a jumpstart to get into the habit of at least recording one thing a day.

In time you may “up your game” and record five things a day. As you craft this neural pathway in your brain, you may in time even be able to see things to think thanks about in hard things, but let’s leave that for now. 🙂

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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.