Your Scroll

Whose Birthday Is It?

I remember one Christmas busying about in preparation for the holidays when I explained to our son whose birthday we were celebrating.  Christmas ScrollHe posed the question that more than a few Christian kids have asked: What were we giving to the One who had the birthday?

To have something physical to give Jesus, we cut out a paper heart, wrapped it,  and placed it under the tree.  Like the song goes…”I’ll give Him my heart.”

That’s a good beginning for kids.  But how about you?  How about actually giving Jesus a gift this Christmas that you know He will really love?  But hold on.  Let me tell you a story first.

Writing Down the Value of Others

Years ago I was told this interesting story. It influenced me to the point that we actually did this on a family get-together and our adult kids were really impacted.  Maybe you could try it this year:

You give everyone in the group a piece of paper.  Ask them to write the names of everyone in the group down the left side leaving space after each name.  Next, you ask them to write down one characteristic they appreciate about each person they have listed.

After everyone is finished, collect the papers.  Cut the papers to separate the names and their appreciation notes from other names with their notes.  Then compile all the appreciation notes of one person into a pile, and give that person their pile.

Watch the eagerness, and sometimes unbelief, on their faces.  Tears may come. Take some time to go around the room and let each person read the comments that were written about them.

It may seem like a small thing to do, but it is amazing how many will want to save those little papers.  In the story I heard, one person put his papers in his wallet and when he died years later they found them on him.  Another person put the notes in her diary, others in a safe place of memories.

Writing Down God’s Value on a Scroll

So, back to the gift idea.  How about this Christmas giving a th(i)nkful gift to the Lord in writing down “a scroll of thanks.” You can do this by yourself or do it together as a family or as a group gathered at a Christmas party.

Christmas Scroll 1Take a piece of paper. Give careful thought and write out five characteristics that you love about your God. Take your time and use words that describe the attribute well.  Next, write out five things that He has done this year for which you’re thankful.

 

So, five about who He is, and five about what He has done.  Roll up the paper, tie it with a beautiful Christmas ribbon, and put it under the tree.  This is an actually physical gift that you can give to the Lord on the day we celebrate His birthday.

Merry Christmas!

A Merry Christmas to all of you from South Africa where summer is really heating up. May the Lord give you the grace to be truly th(i)nkful this holiday season for His coming, His presence, His meticulous Providence, and His embarrassing goodness to us.  We are most blessed!

It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35

Christmas Scroll 6

Th(i)nkful for Death Bringing Life

Sometimes Fire is Necessary

Fire necessaryDid you know sequoias rely on fire to release the seeds from their cones? Those same fires burn off ground debris exposing soil in which seedlings can take root, open forest canopies through which sunlight can reach young seedlings, reduce competition, recycle nutrients into the soil.  Sometimes, fire is necessary.

The largest tree in the world by volume is the General Sherman, a giant sequoia boasting a total of 52,508 cubic feet of wood.  At 2,100 years old, it weighs 2.7 million pounds, is 275 feet tall, and has a 102-foot circumference at the ground. It has branches that are almost 7 feet in diameter.

This incredible creative masterpiece needed fire to give it a start.  Fire is one of our greatest tools; fire is one our most destructive enemies.  Californians are all too familiar with forest fires recently and the destruction that’s left in their paths. It almost feels sacrilegious to find benefits from wildfires.

But don’t miss the point. Too often we are only thankful when things are going well or at least when there are no significant problems.  However, it is profitable to us to ponder that often “fire” is necessary for cleansing, for renewal, for the creation of great masterpieces.

Death May Bring Forth Much Fruit

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  John 12:24fire necessary 5

In a few short weeks we are celebrating the birth of Jesus the Messiah. I am continually amazed by the ironies of His coming. The Creator entering creation; piercing time and space to become pierceable. Immutable character in mutable form. Omnipotence with newborn skin wrapped in a blanket. Mary speaking to the One who spoke the universe into existence, not fully understanding that He was born to die so that we might be reborn and never die.

A week after that silent night, Simeon’s words (Luke 2:35) made it clear – a fire was coming! Truly great novels and plays all have dark chapters; for there to be a triumph, there must be internal or external foes and dark times. And there is nothing so riveting in literature as an innocent, because of love, dying in the place of one who is guilty.

Your Fires

When we experience a “fire” in our lives, we must process the grief with thanksgiving.  It is in this process that revitalization and growth can occur. As we accept God’s sovereignty in our lives and think thanks in whatever circumstance, forestfire-growth.jpegnew fresh growth will slowly happen.

There are purposes for pain and suffering that we may have no idea of.  We cry out to our God that we are so overwhelmed and at the end of our rope. Although the challenge to trust and think thanks seems so beyond what we are capable of doing, that is the way of hope, the way of birth after death.

As time unfolds we may understand more, but only when we are face to face with our Creator will we fully comprehend.

So that the tested genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  I Peter 1:7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sacrifice of Praise

Praisegiving

On the fourth Thursday of November Thanksgiving depositphotos_170113010-stock-photo-family-having-holiday-dinnerAmericans celebrate Thanksgiving. In 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Praise serves us as both a verb and a noun.

  • Verb: to express warm approval or admiration of
  • Noun: the expression of approval or admiration for someone or something; the expression of respect and gratitude as an act of worship.

Thanksgiving 1It is interesting to note that President Lincoln proclaimed that thanks and praise be directed to God.  He recognized that it wasn’t enough for us to just voice our thanks for each other and for things, but it needed to be to our Creator Father who gave us life.  We need to remember to be thankful to, not just thankful for.

Sacrifice Is Proportionate To Worth

In Bible times, believers gave up the use and enjoyment of a spotless animal each year to have it killed and offered up as a sacrifice to God.  Pleasing God was “worth” the personal loss.  Sacrifice expresses worth-ship.  Typically, we make “sacrifices” only if we place high value on someone or something.

  • An African girl will give up playing with friends and trudge through a river collecting beads to sell to local crafters so that she can save up money for school shoes.  Shoes are worth the sacrifice.
  • A man from Alabama will miss work, drive a hundred miles to pick up friends and go to a stadium to sit in seats that cost $200 each to watch a single game played by their favorite sports team.  The thrill of the game is worth the sacrifice.
  • Family will spend time, money, and energy to get together for the holidays. Why? Being together with those with whom we have deep soul-ties is worth the sacrifice.

By Him therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name.” Hebrews 13:15

pray-e1542815779682.jpgHebrews says that praise is a sacrifice. Jesus’ work enables us to take our sacrifice into the very presence of God.  In having the opportunity to praise God, what would you say?  If you have a small view of God, the sacrifice of praise will bother you, and you will back out of His presence.

pray-e1542815816969.jpgOne day, people from every ethnic group will join together around the Throne and lift up their praise to the One who is worth it, far above all other people and things (Rev. 7:9-10; 19:1-8).  How cool to get a head start here on earth. 🙂  So whether it is thank you, tusen takk, Ngibonga, do jeh, grazie, merci, danke, khop khun, or arigato, let’s give praise and thanks to our God!

Hallelujah

You might even consider uttering this word at Thanksgiving.  Let me take the word apart.  “Halal” literally means “to shine” and figuratively means to boast, make a show, to rave, to be loudly foolish, and to celebrate.  Jah is short for the amazing and unequalled name of God.

The middle part of hallelujah is lu, meaning you.  The only thing standing between raving praise and God is you.  Will you be the conduit or the barrier?  Hallelujah is an exhortation – Praise you the Lord!

Structure Jumpstarts Impulse

I think we – even you introverts out there – need to go ahead and shine a little. You need to boast a bit, and maybe even carry on foolishly about our God this Thanksgiving. :-).  Many Christian families find that structure jumpstarts impulsive thanksgiving, so they have a specific time to go around the table and say one thing they are especially thankful to God for this past year.

Being missionaries abroad, we are not in the US during Thanksgiving, but we have found that foreign Christians have fallen in love with the holiday.  So we do our best to find similar foods, tell the old Plymouth story, and offer up the sacrifices of praise to our God.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!”   Psalm 150:6

thanks

Choose to Think

How Many Thoughts Do You Have a Day?

Have you ever thought about how many thoughts you think a day?

“According to the research of Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University, a human being has approximately 60,000 thoughts per day—and 90% of these are repetitive!”       

I do feel that at least for me many of those thoughts are monkey thoughts, jumping from one place to the next and sometimes in quick succession. 🙂 It’s amazing how quickly my thoughts can run.

In the last week I have had two people send me articles that had reminded them of being th(i)nkful.  By the way, I love that.  Thanks.  It is great fodder for more blog posts.  The topic of our brain and how it works is especially interesting to me.  I love how our Creator made it so that if you concentrate on one thing, there may be benefits that you didn’t even think of.

For example Dr. Earl Henslin, author of This is Your Brain on Joy, claims that the emotions of joy and anxiety travel the same pathway in the brain.  If being th(i)nkful is the primary thought, it pushes out anxiety thoughts.

So How Do You Spend Your 60 000?

What if you could hook up a wire to your brain and all your thoughts would register on a computer monitor?  Wow!  What if an app categorized the thoughts?  What would the printout of your thoughts look like?  choose to think2

I find that convicting and inspiring at the same time!

I love that the brain is not set forever, like drying concrete, but the Lord gives me the opportunity every moment to reprogram, overwrite, and reshape my thought patterns.  I know that through His grace-enabled discipline – choosing the next right thought – that I can wrap my mind and heart around ideas that are pleasing to Him and follow the eight guidelines from Philippians 4:8.  But I must choose what I think, and not let the monkeys of fear, worry, bitterness, discontentment, and envy run wild.

Now it is not so easy to control what you think about.  It is actually super hard. Not impossible, but a fight. It marks the difference between a person who is a slave and a person who chooses to think.

Retraining the Mind

Romans 12:2 says to not be conformed to this world, but “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Pretty cool, heh?

Doing the will of the Father is extremely important – it is the test of whether you are a true believer (Matthew 12:50)!  Normal human thinking struggles to figure out God’s will.  You have to renew your thinking – reboot and restart your thinking patterns – to figure out His will.

Here’s a huge way to renew your mind – retrain it to start giving thanks in all circumstances.  Paul wrote that doing so is the will of God (I Thessalonians 5:18). It is good, acceptable, and perfect.

A Th(i)nkful Journal

In order to give thanks, you have to think thanks in all circumstances.  I know this to be true, but even I struggle to put this into practice.

It has helped me to get into a daily pattern of jotting down my th(i)nkful items in a little notebook before I go to sleep. My son Nicolas and his wife Julia got me started on that practice on my birthday over a year ago and that habit has stuck. It takes a few minutes before I turn the light off, but it helps to push out anxious thoughts and helps me focus on th(i)nkful items.

Example of Being Th(i)nkful

Let me close with a recent and powerful example of being th(i)nkful.  Stephanie Wesco, whose husband was shot and killed in Cameroon on October 30, 2018, just 12 days after they arrived in Cameroon as missionaries, wrote these words:

“Even in the midst of all that has happened these last several days, I see so many ways the Lord has guided, protected, blessed, and strengthened us all. Precious memories with my husband are something I’m so thankful for. The eight sweet children the Lord gave us together here on earth are my greatest treasure in the world now.

I’m so thankful for the military escort we were given out of the danger zone. The kindness of the soldiers to my children… One of the men was giving Emmy chocolate, which is her favorite. 😊 My heart broke as we passed the place where Charles was shot, but I know the Lord was our protection and shield as we left our home. I’m so thankful for that safety in passing through that area.

I’m so so thankful for our co-workers, the Sinclair family. This whole tragedy has welded us together as a group, and I fully believe the Lord still has plans for us, even though right now life feels so uncertain in so many ways. I’m so thankful for everyone who is praying and supporting our family in ways I don’t even know about. The body of Christ has taken in new meaning for me. The Lord keeps reminding me though His word and everyone’s words of encouragement that he hasn’t forsaken us. He is always good, always.

Th(i)nkful for OMO

Brumunddal, Norway

I grew up in the village of Brumunddal, Norway.  OMO BrumunddalI moved there when I was four years old.  I have so many fond memories of that little town, two and a half hours north of Oslo. That is where I learned to speak Norwegian.  That is where I began to attend the primary school known as Fagerlund Skole.  I had the most amazing teacher, Fru Mørland.

Deep Memories of Washing Powder

One of the memories that stands out to me from that time is that when my Momma would do the laundry, she would use OMO. OMO 1 No big deal really, it is just the laundry detergent that she used. The look of the box stuck with me.

It was very cold in the wintertime in Norway.  Mom would do the laundry downstairs and hang it up to dry in the “fyr-rommet” (furnace room) since it was dry and warm there.  We had no dryer.

OMO in South Africa

When David and I with our four children moved to Johannesburg, South Africa in 1995 to work in a church-plant, I noticed in the shops that they had OMO!!!!!  Wow!  That was like so cool.  I recognized the box and memories flooded my mind of Mom using that laundry soap.  You may say, who cares?  Well, I did.  With everything all around me being so new, the little box of washing powder helped me.  It gave a connection.  It was a gift from the Lord.

Searching for Simple Gifts

Thinking thanks in your life makes you look for “gifts.”  We are so battered by the tyranny of the urgent, our focus yanked to and fro by a thousand happenings – at home, at the office, at school, in the news, at the doctor’s, in the weather, on social media – that we don’t stop to look at any one thing, to ponder its virtue, to formulate thankfulness, and to express it.  That’s the essence of being th(i)nkful – we must stop and think first, focusing on even a simple thing that we can be th(i)nkful for.  These little joys are all around us, but we need the heart and the eyes to recognize them.

A friend of mine, Pastor Dick Hester, recently wrote:

“Let your heart be like a magnet, sweeping over our days, collecting reasons for gratitude. ‘Thank You, God!’  Our lungs inhale and exhale; our eyes read these words; our hearts beat regularly; our brain works; I put peanut butter and jelly on my bagel this morning. The sun reminds us of God’s love; some men and women don’t cheat on their mates; kids decide not to be disobedient to their parents. ‘Thank You, Lord!’ Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. “Thank You, Lord” acknowledges not only the good gifts, but the Good Giver. Gratitude helps to burn off my dross and anxiety.

I wonder what gifts you have discovered today?

  • Maybe it is realizing that the headache you had yesterday is gone.
  • It may be a text you receive from a loved one.
  • It may not be recognizing an OMO box from your childhood, but maybe it is sensing the supernatural peace from Philippians 4:7 after you have prayed for every concern with supplication and thanksgiving.
  • It may be strength to “power through” a hard challenge facing you.
  • It may be the privilege of eating good food that satisfies your body.
  • It may be a portion of Scripture that fits perfectly for what you need.
  • It may be attending a funeral that helps you realize how fleeting this life truly is and that you need to live accordingly.

I’ll conclude with some words recently written by my friend, Nicole DeFord, illustrating the virtue of finding God’s simple gifts:

There’s just something about looking out a window and seeing sunlight filtered through the raindrops clinging to the panes. OMO NDEverything can be an absolute mess all around you, but when you let yourself get pulled into that moment and the beauty in such a small thing … you can breathe. In such moments, I am always reminded that God gives opportunity for us to stop and appreciate Him and everything He’s given us ALL THE TIME … it’s up to us to take those opportunities, catch those little breathers, be amazed at the world around us, and be thankful for what we have. #thinkful #hygge #canon6d #itsthelittlethings #rainyday

Be Aware of Flawed Thinking

The Wrong Order

When we go through difficult seasons in life, it is tempting to get things cart_before_the_horse_pictures_30991in the wrong order. We tend to look first at our circumstances and try to interpret God’s love and care, which seems missing.

We loose sight of the big picture and run to put out the immediate fire. Fully understandably, but dangerous.

Our emotions are strong and demanding and we cave easily to their demands. We want relief and peace. If God really loves me and is all-powerful, surely He would want the same for me?Be Aware Sign

    Be Aware! 

Gracious Gratitude vs Natural Gratitude

Mary K. Mohler in her recent book, Growing in Gratitude, brings out the importance of Jonathan Edward’s distinctions of “Gracious Gratitude” versus “Natural Gratitude.”

  • Gracious Gratitude: This is thankfulness for God himself – for who He is
  • Natural Gratitude: This is thankfulness for blessings received – for good gifts

Gratitude that acknowledges and thanks God for who He is lays the foundation for natural thanksgiving for what He gives. When we really understand God’s character; that He is completely sovereign, perfect in love, self-existent, with no beginning or end, aware of everything and nothing is hidden from Him, and that He has provided a way through Jesus Christ to forgive all our sin and make us His sons and daughters, our trust in Him fills our perspective.

It lays the foundation for why I can think thanks about every circumstance in my life and express that thanks orally or in a written form.

The Right Order

When the correct view of God is settled in our mind, we can then choose to think thanks in every circumstance in our lives.  Horse before the cart 1The strength of being th(i)nkful can only come from trust in a sovereign Creator and God that is good and worthy.

His plan to make me conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, is clear from Romans 8:29. That sanctification may take me through seasons that frankly are quite uncomfortable, but knowing that He has an end product in mind gives me the grace to trust that He knows exactly what He is doing. I can be th(i)nkful in every circumstance.

“A thankful heart is one of the primary identifying characteristics of a believer. It stands in stark contrast to pride, selfishness, and worry. And it helps fortify the believer’s trust in the Lord and reliance of His provision, even in the toughest times. No matter how choppy the seas become, a believer’s heart is buoyed by constant praise and gratefulness to the Lord.”

John MacArthur

 

 

Advice from C. S. Lewis

We praise what we value

What we praise is a litmus test of what we value.  It happens without us even thinking about it.  In our natural self we do not want to praise the Lord, but at salvation the Lord begins to change us. He gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26) that desires to praise Him as our Creator and Redeemer. C. S. Lewis calls it the good infection in his book Mere Christianity.

New patterns of thinking thanks for all that He is and does begin to take shape in our minds. God initiates a process of out-shaping us from the world’s mindset and in-shaping us to become like His Son (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18).  After a time, we actually begin to direct our praise naturally toward God.  Why?  He has reshaped our thinking to know how intricately He is involved with every detail of our lives, and He has reconfigured our hearts to value how precious and trustworthy He is.

Connection of Expressing and Completing

“I had noticed…C.S. Lewisthat men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it…I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.” C.S. Lewis

It is not enough to just think the thanks or praise, it must be expressed to be completed. Like a joy that must be shared.  Like a secret that wants to be told.  There are various methods of expressing thanks:

  • writing it down
  • singing it to the Lord
  • orally saying the words to God Himself
  • sharing His works with someone else

Somehow it needs to be expressed for the completion of the thanks. Maybe that’s why we call it “giving” thanks – the thought has to come out into the open.  expressing thanksThe gratitude is unfinished if it finds its end only in your thoughts.

There is a contagious element here as well. When we express our thanks, we encourage others to also praise. Talk about good peer pressure! 🙂

Aiding the Sanctification Process

Just like human growth when a new baby grows into a young child and eventually into a full grown adult, so it is with spiritual growth.  What do you “look like” spiritually?  How would you appear if we could change your spiritual life into physical human form?  Would you be an infant?  Would you be emaciated?  Would you be obese from high spiritual intake and no exercise?  Or would you be mature in stature and strong in your spiritual walk, looking more and more like Jesus?

In Ephesians 5:19-20 we get a glimpse of what a mature Spirit-filled person is like.

Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Why not start now expressing your gratitude to God for who He is?  Not only are you fulfilling what God created you to do, but your obedience actually enhances His recreation of you.  As you discover things to think thanks about, express those things to God and to others.  You can write them down or say them out loud.

The brain responds to what you choose to think about.  You will forge and establish a neuro-brain thought pattern that not only pleases the Creator, but will be beneficial for you physically and spiritually.

So, go ahead!  Take a little advice from C. S. Lewis.  Complete your enjoyment!  Think thanks, and then give thanks!

The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” — Henry Ward Beecher

Child saying thanks with his eyes

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.

Ngiyabonga

“Thanks” in Zulu is Ngiyabonga

We landed in Africa 11 days ago.  Since that day an incredible whirlwind has taken place.  Breathing new smells, searching for a car and home, meeting new people, eating new food, learning Zulu words, driving stick-shift on the other side of the road, standing in lines at Home Affairs, falling in love with the believers at Grace Toti and nearby Zulu valleys, and getting lost looking at the Indian Ocean all combine to hurl us through this whirlwind of adjustment to our new normal.

Standing in lines at Home AffairsI love it.  I know that is God’s grace.  People are praying for us and we feel it.  Thank you if you are one of them. 🙂 I am surprised at how much I love it here.  The years we spent up in Johannesburg are coming in handy as there are familiar things mixed in with the new.  So th(i)nkful!

Bonga is the root word for thanks.  To say I say thanks, you add in a prefix, “ngiyabonga.” Also if you say we say thanks, you add a different prefix, “siyabonga.” While standing in line at Home Affairs, I met a woman whose name was Nokubonga (mother of thanks).  Now that’s a name and a half. 🙂

Thankfulness is Universal and Uplifting

To be thankful and to express that thankfulness is appropriate all over the world.  It is inspiring to see how expressed gratitude brings smiles to people’s faces whatever cultural background they are from.

God created us to give glory to Him.  There are many ways in which we bring glory to God: through the design of our being – physical and spiritual; through reflecting His image in our actions; and through our words and actions. When we are choosing to think thanks about every circumstance in our lives and expressing that thanks orally or in a written form, we bring glory to God.

Being th(i)nkful isn’t easy all the time.  In these last two weeks there have been times where I have been pressed down with a terrible headache and struggled with tightness in my lungs.  But even through tears, choosing to think thanks and praying hard with thanksgiving (Phil.4:6), gives me a supernatural peace that comes from Him, an inner joy that no one can take away.

Being th(i)nkful is uplifting!

66b66588-3ab9-40f7-99ea-10d7adc62676

My Th(i)nkful List.  What Is Yours?

  • Seeing and hearing the Indian Ocean
  • Monkeys are very visible
  • My husband is so kind and understanding
  • IsiZulu is a pretty cool language
  • People praying for us
  • My brother Erik helped me figure out a way to talk to my Dad and we got to pray together
  • Dr.Mandy helping me with a nebulizer for a breathing treatment
  • Co-workers that love the Lord and love to help out newbies
  • The Gospel works in every culture
  • Hearing Zulu women sing when they work
  • Nick and Julia sending a video of their family singing the Psalm 73:28 chorus I came up with before we left
  • All our kids are on one WhatsApp chat group
  • Pastor Des and Sharon’s warm welcome and strong vision for the future

Ok, the challenge is on.  What is your th(i)nkful list?

“O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon His name: make known His deeds among the people.” Psalm 105:1

 

Th(i)nkful in the Gauntlet

What is a Gauntlet?

A gauntlet is an intimidating, frightening, and sometimes dangerous set of tests that must be endured or gone through in order to reach a desired place or an end goal.  

Remember in the movie, “First Knight,” IMG-7223how Lancelot willingly volunteered to run the gauntlet? There were blades, spikes, swords, bludgeons, paddles, and heavy balls whirling about him at different speeds, and from different directions.

He had to have excellent timing to avoid the sharp blades and dexterity to slip between the huge obstacles.  Those watching were holding their breath because the odds were not good that he would make it to the end unharmed.  But he did. 🙂

Perhaps you are in a gauntlet of sorts right now.  Life is full of challenging storms, warped pavement, intimidating obstacles, repetitious hurdles, and bends in the road through which God is trying to move us toward a closer relationship of trust with Him.

Our Gauntlet

David and I have our own gauntlet that we are running.  We are headed back to the mission field this evening.  Our plane leaves Atlanta 41968135_10160844145675273_4747634137211338752_naround 10 pm and we arrive in Amanzimtoti, South Africa, on Thursday morning, Lord willing.  These past few months we have been so busy preparing and packing … and today we go.

As we head out on this third missionary journey, I have been eager to embrace staying th(i)nkful right in the process.

Yes, there are times when I have cried so hard because we will be further away from our kids and grandchildren.  And the upcoming test of learning Zulu is daunting to me.  But putting feet to the th(i)nkful idea has brought such joy and peace.

Keeping Steady

There’s something that I do when I go through hard times that the Lord has encouraged me with.  I seek for a Bible verse to be an anchor for my soul that I can memorize and feed on.  Often I am able to come up with a little tune for the verse, and I sing it as I hurry about to accomplish the tasks and challenges before me. That little tune runs with me and inspires me to keep my thoughts where they ought to be…on Him.

Psalm 73:28 is my Zululand anchor.

“But it is good for me to draw near to God, I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all your works.”

Last evening, we had a final visit with our precious son and his family.  After enjoying pizza together we went up to the children’s bedroom and sat around singing songs and praying together.  We sang my little Psalm 73:28 chorus with Nicolas easily picking up the guitar chords.  What an indelible memory and gift that was for me as we leave.  I am so incredibly blessed!

My th(i)nkful list:

  • God never leaves me nor forsakes me; He is equally present on the other side of the earth
  • This life is a vapor; heaven is not now, but it’s coming (gauntlets don’t last forever)
  • My husband loves to serve the Lord and is eager to push himself out of his comfort zone to learn a new language and serve new people
  • We have an incredible prayer support team.  They are “holding the ropes” for us
  • Going through this packing process has simplified my life; it feels so good to not have so much stuff
  • Josh and Celeste and their children Face-timed us this morning to say goodbye and tell us that they are praying for us
  • My Dad is so proud of us and promises to pray often
  • Dan and Deb Willoughby are receiving us into their own home a few days on the field to let us get our feet
  • Justin and Stephanie and precious boys came down the weekend before to just be together
  • Pastor Chris, Joe, Greg, Mac, Doug, Dr. Miles, and Steve laid hands on us and prayed over us on Sunday, with an entire congregation surrounding us as they sent us out
  • Psalm 73:28
  • I am not coughing
  • I don’t have a headache
  • Jonny and Elly in China are following our journey
  • We get to bring our pillows and our soft duvet
  • Julia wanted me to teach her hand-quilting last night before I left
  • The Indian Ocean is beautiful and magnificent and we will be very close
  • We have an incredible hope in Jesus and His work on the cross

“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!”  –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

 

 

Thanksgiving is Giving Credit to Someone

Who Gets the Credit?

Have you ever noticed how many people get up and leave when it’s time for the credits at the end of a movie?  Here you have enjoyed a great story representing countless hours of work that a huge team has slaved over, but you don’t really care who all gets the credit.  I wonder if we do that in real life.

Thanksgiving is an act of humility.  Expressing thanks is saying that credit or praise belongs to someone else; to God or to other people.  Arrogant pride says I’m not sufficiently served by others; I did it by myself.  I am self sufficient.  I don’t want to owe anyone anything.  I internalize the credit and externalize the blame.

But life with Jesus Christ is so different.  He designs things so I can’t do it by myself.  On purpose!  He wants me to see that I need Him.  Desperately.  And then when I succeed, or maybe just survive an ordeal, I must give Him the credit.  He is to be thanked!cameron-patterson-co-business-accountant-handshake-office

When you take the time to shake someone’s hand and say “thank you,” you are giving that person credit.  You acknowledge that they did something that was beyond your control or ability.

A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” Arnold H. Glasow

Are there people in your life that need to receive credit from you?  What about your God?  Do you thank Him for who He is and what He has done?

Thanksgiving is giving the credit to someone else

fullsizeoutput_ffdGiving flowers at the end of a concert, or a conductor pointing his finger to orchestra members in gratitude, are gestures of someone giving credit to another.  Speeches given by award recipients typically deflect praise and thanks to parents and friends.  Christian coaches and quarterbacks throw their thanks to teammates and to Jesus Christ.

We give thanks when we release the credit from ourselves and give that credit to another.  When God exhorts us to give thanks in every circumstance, He knows that is for our own good. It is a self-sufficient and thankless society that will call a day dedicated to giving thanks to God “turkey day.”

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A family “saying grace” before a meal

We receive a blessing, something the Bible calls “grace,” when we release the credit.  This is why a family holding hands around the table and giving thanks to the One who provided the food they are about to receive calls it “saying grace.”  It’s profound, just like our amazing Lord Jesus said in Acts 20:35: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

So, resolve this week to pass along credit to three people in your life, thanking them for who they are to you or what they’ve done for you. And then also talk to your Father, and the Son, and the Spirit about the credit they immensely deserve for all that they have done in you and for you.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward1208gift