Th(i)nkful Lessons In Knysna


Elephants used to roam freely in the forests around Knysna, South Africa.  Today those magical creatures of old have forged their place in legend and literature, as is the case in J.R.R. Tolkien’s oliphants in Lord of the Rings.  Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, S.A. in 1892, and spent the first three years of his life in South Africa. Olifants is the Afrikaans word for elephant.

Last Saturday I had the privilege of visiting one of the elephant sanctuaries around Knysna, S.A. and took this picture.  They are gentle beasts mostly, as long as food is part of the deal. Touching the tough and scratchy hide is fascinating.  Their massive ears are filled with blood vessels used as a cooling mechanism when they flap. Elephants spend most of their time eating and very little time sleeping, especially if they are in the wild. Elephants are always on the move.

The following day we heard a minister speak on James 1:1-12. He connected count it all joy with verse 5’s asking for wisdom in a way that I had not seen before.  We are to think thanks, or count it all joy, in whatever trial we are in.  When we are being tested, we are to be grateful. Why? Because of verse 3. James says that because we know that the test is for our good, we can engage being th(i)nkful.

Our faith is exposed in trials. If we have compartmentalized our lives, putting our faith in one department, and our everyday living in another, it will be painful to connect the two when difficulties come.  However, if we have synced the two, our faith in that God is using this situation in my life for good, will enable us to respond in trusting joy and to be thankful.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God in faith, and it will be given him.  The quest for wisdom is in regard to how we can count it all joy in difficult times. We build our thoughts on the sure foundation that God is in control, trusting in His wisdom and incredible love for us, and then count it all joy. We think thanks.

Just like that elephant who is always on the go looking for food, I should always be on the move looking for what I can think thanks about in my present situation, whether easy or not.  My brain pattern of th(i)nkfulness is increased in strength every time it is exercised.


Today I am th(i)nkful for:

  • having a safe trip to Africa and back
  • God writing the story of my life every moment in small ways and big
  • the couples traveling with us being so open and teachable
  • Ros and Rob Warren’s Pepperwood Lodge Bed & Breakfast that soothes the soul
  • Grapetizers that are still delicious
  • the Gospel message changing lives

credit to Billy Gotcher, speaking at Lagoonside Baptist, Knysna, S.A. May 28, 2017


10468354_10152568691852553_1986898248865593378_nHeaded to Africa today.  Love this part of the world where giraffes roam.  I am so thankful that God made these amazing animals.  So elegant and classy. I love their coat and their incredibly long neck that defies evolution.

There are so many things about giraffes that I can think thanks about.  They have long black eyelashes, huge brown eyes, and their purple tongue is extremely long and slimy. Their brown, patchy coat is so mellow and comforting. I love how if they eat too long at a acacia thorn tree, which is one of their favorites, the tree produces a bitter taste in its leaves to make the giraffe stop munching and move to another tree.  Our God is amazing.  So thankful.

Why Th(i)nkful?

BeautyBeauty can take your breath away. Soft hues of color and reflection in the water have a calming effect on our souls. This scene is from Northland International University, a beloved place in my heart.  It is a remote location in Wisconsin close to the border of Canada.  It snows a lot there.  Living in this place was very similar to where I grew up in Brumunddal, Norway.  The ground stays covered with snow from late November to mid-April.

This picture also represents great sorrow for me.  Sorrow that took my breath away.  Northland closed in 2015. Our expectations to teach and serve at this university for the remainder of our years were destroyed.  We planned one way, but God directed a different way.  God is God, and I am not.

Here in beautiful, yet breathtaking sorrow that God ordained, th(i)nkful was birthed.

th(i)nkful – a determined choice to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance that comes my way and express that thanks orally or in a written form.

I choose to trust in your sovereignty, God. Because You have promised that You will never forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), and the fact that life is a vapor (James 4:14), I can, through Your help, think thanks about even the saddest things in my life.

  • Northland served its purpose
  • David and I had the privilege of developing so many relationships for the short time we served there
  • Sometimes wonderful things have to be birthed out of very difficult origins
  • God is writing the story, not me
  • Bjorkeli, the name we gave our little cottage up there in the northwoods, will always be such a sweet memory

I do not know what you are dealing with at the moment.  Maybe you are doing just fine.  Maybe you are not moving through any specifically trying times at all.  Maybe you are not doing well and struggling to cope. In all circumstances, give thanks. All.

photo credit to Kevin Moses


Th(i)nkful In The Storm

Sarah's tree storySince the Bible is the most published piece of literature in human history, and because I personally trust in it explicitly, I decided to do a thorough biblical study of the word “thanks” in all its various forms (such as thank, thankfulness, thanksgiving, thankworthy).

Let me summarize what I found and then connect it with the event in this picture that took place just last week.

Out of the 135 references I found in the Strong’s Concordance, 67 came from the Old Testament, and 68 from the New Testament. Let’s hit a few highpoints.

The references in the OT begin with the Lord’s thanksgiving offerings which were voluntary and were to express thankfulness to God in Lev. 7:11-21. God designed giving thanks as an essential part of the way His chosen people should worship Him.  As the years and the prophets went by, we can also see that whenever there was a revival, a time of cleansing and restoration in Israel, thanksgiving was an integral part.

The Psalms have the most references to thanks of any book in the Bible – no surprise there. When the psalmist was in distress, discouraged, or overwhelmed, he often poured out his heart to God.  As he began truth-thinking about God’s character and promises, his perspective changed and his thoughts were filled with thanksgiving toward God.

Moving to the NT, Colossians has a verse dealing with thanks in every chapter.  In fact, chapter 3 has three verses in a row (3:15-17), where three Greek words are used that are each connected to being thankful.  Check it out.

The strongest verses, Ephesians 5:20 and I Thessalonians 5:18, actually command believers to give thanks in all circumstances.

  • “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20).
  • “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thess. 5:18).

This is just a small sampling of all the verses I found, but such a strong foundation for pursuing being th(i)nkful.  I am cultivating thinking thanks not just for His glory, but also because my Creator has designed this thinking pattern for my benefit.  He wants me to look for the things that I can be thankful for in every situation that comes my way.

There will be times that are heart-wrenching and stretching in my life. I am to think thanks right then, even through the tears. There will be times when I feel like dancing because I am so happy.  I am to think thanks then, but that will be easy.  However, most of life will be in between these extremes, the vast stretches of mundane, everyday life, but even then, all the time, when I wake, and when I go to sleep, I am to think thanks.

I want to end this post with a story from a former student named Sarah.  She and her husband Austin are very precious to David and me. She had an eventful birthday on May 4th, a stormy day just last week.  This is how she described what happened after she left work that day:

I feel that I need to proclaim God’s grace and goodness. After not being able to leave due to trees down on the road, I came back to the house. I had just walked into the living room when we heard cracking and a massive crash. Walked outside to see this [picture above] where I had been only moments earlier. We don’t always know why God spares us from things like this, or why he doesn’t at times. But like Austin says, there are no other alternatives. No “what if’s,” or “if only’s,” we can only trust that if we knew everything He does, we wouldn’t change one thing (used by permission).

Sarah was being th(i)nkful.  She was thinking thanks in the middle of a very frightening and difficult thing.  Rather than bemoaning the destruction of her car, worrying about insurance claims, or how she would get to work, her thoughts went quickly to giving thanks to God.


Relating Think and Thank

Did you know that the English root word of “thank” comes from think or feel?

In order to be thankful, you have to first think, to formulate in your mind the things you are thankful for.  It doesn’t seem like such a grand new discovery, but it was to me.  I could not just muster up a general spirit of thankfulness.  I had to think of specific things in my mind.  I had to ponder what I was thankful for.

So … Th(i)nkful

th(i)nkful is a blending of thinking and thanking, and is designed to cultivate thinking thanks.

It is estimated that a person may have up to 50,000 thoughts a day.  Many of these thoughts are automatic thoughts because you have conditioned your mind to do something over and over again.  My desire is to inspire you to develop a brain pattern that makes you automatically look for the things that you can think thanks for in every circumstance that you encounter.

Connecting Good With A Giver

Being th(i)nkful is not just being thankful for; it is being thankful to.  It is delivering that beautiful present of your thanks to whom it is due.  God, first and foremost.  He has given you the air you breathe at this second.  He is ultimately the One worthy to receive our th(i)nkful gift.

What if we just harnessed 5 of those 50,000 thoughts each day to focus on numerating 5 things that we are thankful for and wrap that gift up and present it to the Lord. Let me give you an example:

I am thankful that:

  1. I am able to breathe well right now.  No coughing or wheezing.
  2. My eyes work great.  I can see color and even focus with my glasses on.
  3. My incredible husband helped me get this blog started even though I feel such fear and trepidation.
  4. This afternoon I got to WeChat with our youngest child in China and her face made me rejoice.
  5. I can speak a foreign language. God let me learn that as a child growing up in Norway.  That is just so cool!

Thank You, God.

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