ALMOST ~ AM LOST

On Israel’s Shore – Caesarea Maritima

Herod the Great built Caesarea in about 10 BC.  He did the impossible – conquered an unruly sea and built jetties and an entire port on the Mediterranean Sea, complete with lighthouse, temples, a palace, and a hippodrome for chariot races and gladiator games. This city was home for Rome’s leaders – Pilate, Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa I and II.

About 30 years after Jesus died, this city was the setting for Acts 26:28 where the imprisoned Apostle Paul gave his defense to King Herod Agrippa II and Festus.  Paul skillfully related his testimony, his story of conversion, and gave a reason for his life’s commitment to spreading the gospel.  In response, Agrippa uttered his famous words, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian!”

The Problem With “Almost”

Our guide for our recent study trip to Israel chose that setting to share his own personal testimony.  As we stood cooling off our feet in the beautiful Mediterranean, he described that as a rebellious young man, he decided he was finished with church and God and was leaving home to live his own life.

As a token gesture, he went to his home church to say “good-bye.”  That evening, the sermon was on Acts 26:28.  The speaker emphasized the irony of the word ALMOST.  If you switch the L and the M in that word, you come up with a related concept ~ AM LOST.  Being almost a believer is the same as being totally lost. How very, very sad.

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The result in our guide’s life was that God’s Spirit used that to break his rebellion and catapult him into seeking an intimate life-giving relationship with the Lord.  Eventually he went into ministry and has been training church leaders for 25 years.

We climbed up a small hill from the beach and walked out on to the very stone pavement where Paul spoke these words. How sobering to realize the ongoing living power coming from the Biblical account that took place right where we stood.

And how amazing to think that Paul’s words to “give thanks always for all things” were written during this imprisonment.  I am th(i)nkful for our brother Paul’s faithful testimony during that long test that God sovereignly allowed in his life. How often we become very impatient with how God has written our story.  We chafe and complain because it is hard for us and we don’t see the reason for the difficulties. Ever spend three years in prison for no good reason and wonder what God is doing?

Th(i)nkful For Grace

One of the outstanding lessons for me is that I am so incredibly thankful for “grace” – unmerited help and assistance from God.  That same grace that helped Paul through all he experienced as he was imprisoned and beaten is also fully available to me.  The grace that helped our guide respond to the challenge of Acts 26:28 is freely presented to all who desire to believe. Th(i)nkful that God is so merciful and faithful, quick to forgive, and slow to wrath.

Irony of the Aqueducts

Herod’s masterpiece on the Mediterranean – like so many other things he built in Israel – is in ruins, barely visible, just toppled rocks that beg for imagination.  The Caesarean aqueductsIMG_5834 that used to bring down fresh water from the foothills of Mt. Carmel are now dried and cracked.

But God’s living water, reflected in the life, words, and ministry of Paul, is still flowing steadily for all who would drink. People like our guide are still brought to life by the words of the living water uttered on that stone platform in Caesarea years ago.  And the flow, growing stronger and stronger these days, is reaching into the spiritual deserts of countries and communities that have never heard. Sola Deo Gloria!

Lives Still Transformed

Paul gave a compelling testimony of the saving and transforming power of Jesus Christ. So did our guide in Israel.  Your story is powerful, and no one can argue with it. Our friend Josh Chapmon is a videographer who has a ministry helping Christians record videos of their testimony simply using a smart phone to upload them to the internet. Check out God’s story in the life of Chris Dew!

 

 

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to be a Christian.”  And Paul said, “I would to God, that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.”

Acts 26:28-29

Th(i)nkful in Gethsemane

Journey to Gethsemane

Jerusalem. David and I were experiencing a dream trip come true.  Someone had provided a way for us to join a small study group to Israel.  All my life I had desired to see the places where Jesus walked and to have my eyes opened to the events of the Bible in an extraordinary manner.  I was full of thinking thanks as we actually walked along the old Jerusalem walls, into the Kidron valley, and up the Mount of Olives into the Garden of Gethsemane. The olive trees were astounding!

As we entered I realized that it was a lot smaller than I had imagined.  Probably one reason for that was the Church of All Nations that now occupies much of the area where the garden had originally been.  The word Gethsemane means olive press.  Since the Mount of Olives is covered with olive tress, that is a most fitting name.  The garden seemed more cultivated than I expected, probably more than it was when Jesus and His disciples had gone there 2,000 years ago.  IMG_5053A fence enclosed the garden, protecting the ancient olive trees, and beautiful flowers were growing in between the old trees.  I could see walkways, but people were not allowed to enter.

Th(i)nkful for Freddie

Not sure if I was super-exhausted from travel and walking many miles a day, or because I was truly aware of the immensity of what happened on that piece of ground, but I began to cry.  Tears were streaming down my face as I peered over the fence that surrounded the garden.  I was so very th(i)nkful that Jesus “saw it through.”  For my sake, he endured through the arrest and the illegal trial that night, and then the beatings, the mocking, and the agony of the cross the next day.  The overwhelming agony was sadly juxtaposed with the underwhelmed cluelessness of his disciples who were not even able to stay awake and pray with Him.  I don’t expect I would have done any better as I so often yield to the frailty of my flesh.

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A man inside the garden walked up to me.  He noticed my tears and was gentle and kind.  He said that he had been the gardener there for 21 years, and his father for 40 years before him.  His name was Freddie; his father was from Romania and his mother an American Jew. He asked me to wait a minute while he went to get something.  He returned with some small sprigs clipped from the oldest olive tree in the garden!  As we continued to chat with him, we found out that Freddie’s mother was very sick so David asked if he could pray for her, and he did.

Some of the olive trees there were so huge and gnarled.  I had never seen such trees in all my life.  I wondered if in fact some of them could actually have been there 2,000 years ago when Jesus was there?

2000 year old olive tree

Rosemary in Gethsemane

IMG_5454As an epilogue, I wanted to mention that someone once told me that there was a lot of the herb rosemary in the Garden of Gethsemane.  That connected with me.  I love rosemary, and to think that it may have been growing around the area where Jesus prayed brought me joy.  Perhaps he stroked His fingers over the rosemary and smelled it like I love to do. So I was on the lookout for that as I walked around the garden.

Sure enough I found it on the north side.  It was neatly planted in a row, but I am sure that when Jesus was there it grew more wildly.

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples. Sit here, while I go over there and pray. And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, My soul is very sorrowful , even to death; remain here, and watch with Me. 

Matthew 26:36-38

 

 

 

What is Th(i)nkful?

Definition

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

So…practically what does that really look like?

30,000 Feet Up

In counseling we are taught a principle to use when helping someone who is, as we say, “lost in Manhattan.”  They’re in a maze of tall troubles; they spin around disoriented, feeling lost and hopeless.  How can we help them?

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It is called getting them “30,000 feet up.”  Imagine yourself pulling them up to 30,000 feet and then looking down at their problem – viewing things, you might say, from God’s viewpoint.  The giants are now small.  You can look down on streets and see the main roads out of the city.

Getting a better and higher perspective on what really matters can be the key that gives hope and helps us cope. What is the big, big picture? We were born, we live, and we will die. What is going to really matter in the long run?  Will it matter 100 years from now?  And for all the darkness in the city of my life, where are the lights?  Where are the signposts?  Who put them there for me, and how can I tell Him “thank you?”

Th(i)nkful Created

I stumbled over the th(i)nkful concept while going through a difficult time in my life.  I knew from scripture that I was to give thanks in every circumstance, but I was hard-put to do just that. As I studied out the etymology of the word thanks, I discovered that it came from the ancient root word tong which meant to think/ feel.  Expressing thanks is based on 1) stopping, 2) reflecting on your circumstances, and 3) choosing a positive thing on which to focus.  Thank comes after think.  Expressing thanks doesn’t just happen naturally, and especially not when times are hard.

So th(i)nkful was created to encourage us all to forge a life-pattern of repeatedly stopping, thinking, choosing the good, and expressing our thankfulness for, and our thankfulness to … the One who is the source of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).

This life-pattern is being th(i)nkful, first thinking, then choosing the good, then giving thanks.  Expressing the thankful thoughts, either orally or writing them down, enforces the brain neuron pathway. Every time you push yourself to be th(i)nkful you secure that brain pattern a little bit more. You choose to focus on the things you can give thanks for.  You also need to give the gift of your gratitude to the One who deserves it.  We are thankful to, not just thankful for.

Th(i)nkful List:

  • I have a brain that allows me to think
  • Phil. 4:13 promises me strength to obey God when He asks me to give thanks always
  • the blessings that follow gratitude, like peace, contentment
  • discovering joys and pleasure that I take for granted, like when pain goes away
  • th(i)nkful journals that allow me to record my thankful thoughts
  • reading the journals later remind me to continue to think thanks in the present
  • focusing on my blessings, minimizes my difficulties

 

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I choose to focus on the silhouette in this picture.  Daming Lake, Jinan, China

Giving Thanks through Barbed Wire

Giving Thanks through Barbed Wire

I love this photo taken recently by a friend in Scotland.  30411957_2490386290987266_4279298344771125248_nThe rainbow of God’s promise is clearly seen through the barbed wire.  The wire was put there for a reason you can be sure, and most probably served its purpose.

Life is full of ‘barbed wire’ that looks ugly and threatening, but has a useful purpose.  The concept that I take away from this picture is that I can see such beauty through the barbed wire. When we are able to focus on the promises of God, exemplified by the rainbow, and be thankful through the difficulties we are facing, there is hope. How do we “focus on the promises of God and be thankful?”

Pastoral Advice on the How-To of Thankfulness.

Dick Hester is our “pastor to missionaries” at Biblical Ministries Worldwide.Hester's  He and his dear wife, Carol, have many years of pastoral experience and have chosen to minister in the twilight of their years to missionaries all over the world.  They get on flights and fly to the uttermost parts to serve and encourage.

One of the things that Dick does is send out prayer prompters to edify and inspire us to think and live godly lives.  I was reading one that he sent out on the topic of thanksgiving and found his comments quite profound:

“Saying “Thank You” to God is an area that’s hard to measure. If I’d ask you how thankful you are in your day to day life you’d probably say “OK”. There are a lot of sins in the Bible which you know are sins: Adultery. It’s pretty black and white. Stealing. You don’t walk out of a store with something you didn’t pay for and say, “I  think I might have stolen something.” You know you did it. But this whole area of giving thanks or not giving thanks to God, or being a thankful person or not, is a hard one to measure and we may not know exactly where we are. But it is very, very important and needs to be a fundamental part of our life.

Colossians 2:6,7 tells us that,  “…as we have received Christ Jesus as Lord, we are to walk in Him…” As born again believers, we are to live like a Christian, according to the Word of God. We are  “…rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith as we have been taught; abounding—overflowing— with thanksgiving.” We are to keep growing when we become His child and here’s how: do things we ought to do (obey) and thank God, profusely.

Overflowing with gratitude is foundational to our Christian life. Study the Word of God and you will find that you communicate that you love God by simply saying, “Thank You, Lord”. The more we say that to Him, the more we’re saying, “I love You” and the more we bring glory to Him. We’re to love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength, and one of the major ways we do that is to say, “Thank You, Thank You!” for what He’s done for you. Our goal ought to be to have an attitude of gratitude all the time about everything.

Ephesians 5:20:  “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father…” What is God’s will for us?”  “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18) God tremendously blesses the ones who develop this basic discipline. One of my greatest joys in life is giving things to my kids. Do you know when I don’t like it? When they take it for granted; when they just assume. Nothing makes me warmer inside for people to say, “Thank you; I love you”, and the more grateful they are, the more I want to give.

Think about it: God created us, blessed us with spiritual blessings, sent His Son to die for us to pay the penalty for our sin. We do not have to do anything—no strings attached. We simply receive Him, believe Him, and God says, “I’ll adopt you into My family, bless you with every spiritual blessing, give you the gift of the Holy Spirit, and you get to go to heaven forever.” We don’t have to do anything if we don’t want to, because it’s a free gift. When we thank God and thank Him for everything, we bring glory to Him and He loves it. He blesses even more, those who thank Him.

Gratefulness is a character quality. I think the ultimate thanks will be for the gift of heaven. We should thank Him for that every day. If I died today I’m going to heaven. My prayer as a kid was, “Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray my Lord, my soul to take. Amen!” Every day say, “Thank You, Lord, for giving me the gift of eternal life. Thank you that I am saved, and I’m going to heaven and live with You forever.”

We thank God for our food before our meals. Have you ever turned the key to start your car and thanked the Lord for your car? Not everybody has a car! Do you thank God for your house when you walk in? For your clothes, shoes, job, ministry? I know I am blessed more than 90% of the world. We take so much for granted. God says we should thank Him always, continuously, for everything. Make that your goal, for all things in your life.   First We Pray!  Give thanks!”

God delights to bless His children. I wonder how much we hold back further blessing by simply failing to say “thank you so much.” I wonder how much longer we stay tangled in the barbed wire because we haven’t pushed through and thanked Him for it. Expressing thanks benefits how we process all of life, and is done in obedience to His commands, but it is also a trigger for His sustaining grace, delivering power, and further blessing.

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Godliness with Contentment is Great Gain

Contentment

The Battle for Contentment

Contentment is being totally at peace with having nothing more and nothing else.  It is therefore the greatest wealth a person can have.  Contentment is simply wanting only what I already have.  There is no angst; no imagining, no further search.

Have you ever felt totally content?  OK, maybe after a big meal on a soft couch when you are dosing off to sleep. Most internet pictures for contentment have people relaxing in tranquil surroundings. But have you ever chosen, independent of circumstances, to be content?  It seems almost impossible for us as humans.  The relentless stream of advertisements on TV or websites are designed to ensure that we are never content; after all, one week of nationwide contentment could destroy our economy!

We all, it seems, have the “dis-ease of discontent.”  Our hearts long for more comfort and convenience, greater perfection in our things and relationships.  We try to satisfy this internal quest for harmony and heaven by relentlessly striving to achieve it here and now.  So, we never have enough or have it exactly right. We are discontent.

The Source of Contentment is Within

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, writes that the “godliness with contentment” mentioned in 1 Timothy 6:6 is the best virtue combination a believer can have.  The first is vertical; the second horizontal.  Both come from within. Both are independent of our outward circumstances and physical conditions. Both communicate, “all I need is a deep relationship with God – not much else matters.”  Lloyd-Jones points out that this brings great gain, a phrase not often used in Scripture. Contentment is the greatest wealth.

Contentment and Ambition

But are we to become a blob? Can athletes and scholars and artists achieve great things while being content?  The Scripture is clear that we can have godly ambition.

  • Firstly, we should have an insatiable quest to know, love and serve Him with our whole heart and life (Psalm 27:4. 63:1, Philippians 3:10).  I must never become content in my spiritual life.
  • Secondly, we should push to wholeheartedly do with excellence things that honor God by reflecting His image in us (1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:23-24).  We must be content with the gifts, appearance, power and possessions He has given us, but then use them all wholeheartedly for His glory.

Ungodly ambition is the drive for fame, validation, power, wealth, possessions and pleasures to fill up a personal void with the stuff that promises happiness and satisfaction … and that stuff will never be enough.  This is why Puritan writers felt that ambition was one of the most deceitful sins.  Many leaders “attempt great things for God” out of unholy ambition.

Being Th(i)nkful Brings Contentment

When I learn the discipline of thinking thanks, contentment oozes slowly into my heart. Gratefulness focuses on what I have, not on what I lack.  It takes away the fuel of discontent; the fire goes out.  Nothing really changes in my life, except for what I am thinking about and expressing.  I choose to be th(i)nkful.

Southern-Africa-Panorama-MapDavid and I are moving back to South Africa in a few months. We will go alone to this land; we will leave family behind.  We plan to study the Zulu language diligently, and then teach the Bible, theology and counseling to emerging Zulu leaders, and help them begin a church-planting movement.

As I am thinking about the changes that lie ahead, there are days when I struggle to think thanks.  I am tempted to think about precious children and grandchildren who will be out of reach.  That is so hard and heavy for me.  But when I think about how God has given me joys in the journey that are undoubtedly His fingerprints of mercy, I am th(i)nkful.  He will help us.  He will measure out grace. I have already started a th(i)nkful list about our move.

Join me in the discipline of thinking thanks so that together we can cultivate contentment, and in the process become more godly.

Godliness with Contentment is of Great Gain ~ I Timothy 6:6

Th(i)nkful Tree

My Friend’s Th(i)nkful Tree

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Back in October, I spoke at a ladies’ retreat and shared about the concept of being th(i)nkful.  There was a precious lady present at that retreat that took the th(i)nkful idea and owned it for herself.

In this post I want to share what she did.

IMG_4920My friend bought a leaf cutter from Hobby Lobby craft store (using the 40% coupon) :).  She then went to Walmart and asked if she could have paint-color samples.  She took the paint-color sample papers and cut out ‘leaves.’

She would gather spring colors, or fall colors, or just do all one color depending on what she wanted .  She cut out quite a few leaves and then had a good thin permanent marker to write on the leaf.  Every day she would write the date and one thing she was thankful for on a paper leaf.  She then would attach the leaf to a little “tree” that she had made.
IMG_E4919It displayed the leaves.  IMG_4930She brought the tree and the leaves to show me one evening when we were speaking at a missions conference at her church.

My heart was so encouraged.  Here she had taken the principle of thinking thanks and put feet to it in her own life.  She shared that this had helped her so much in establishing a thought pattern of looking for things to be th(i)nkful for.  Just perfect!!!!

What Do You Do to Promote Gratitude?

Having a heart that is full of gratitude is not a natural thing.  It is the work of the Spirit that helps us develop such a heart.  It is so good for us to learn to be thankful for all things, whether good or bad.  Our hearts can choose be thankful and express that thankfulness in clever ways that inspire others.

IMG_4928Th(i)nkful:  a determined choice to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in my life and to express that thanks orally or in a written form.

 

 

 

The Pyramids of Egypt

Intrigue from the Pyramids

The Great Pyramid at Giza outside Cairo, Egypt, is the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to still exist. We visited there a couple weeks ago on our way to a teaching assignment in Alexandria. Riding the camels at the pyramids was a lifelong dream.

CONSTRUCTION:Pyramids of Egypt No one knows how Pharaoh Khufu built his Great Pyramid back in 2560 BC, 500 years before Abraham. It included 2.3 million blocks weighing 20+ tons each. If they finished it in 20 years, that would mean laying a block every 4 minutes, day and night so tightly that you can’t fit a piece of paper between them! It was 480 feet tall, the tallest building in the world for 3800 years.

We walked the base – 760 feet long – and it is perfectly horizontal to within a half inch. The perimeter was 2x pi of the height, what is known as phi or the Golden Ratio. The orientation of the pyramid to true north was better than almost any modern building. In fact, with today’s technology, we could not reconstruct this pyramid.

ASTRONOMY: Triangular casing stones used to line the pyramids creating a smooth shining surface. At the spring equinox on March 21st of each year, light came down the north side for the first time that year.Pyramids of Egypt 3

The Egyptians believed the dark area of the night sky around which the stars appear to revolve was the physical gateway into heaven. One of the narrow shafts that extend from the main burial chamber through the entire body of the Great Pyramid points directly towards the center of this part of the sky. This suggests the pyramid may have been designed to serve as a means to magically launch the deceased pharaoh’s soul directly into the abode of the gods.

Our Connection with the Pyramids

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Although there is great mystery as to how this ancient people could build such a huge, precise, and complex structure, one thing is certain. They wanted to leave a lasting memory of their Pharaoh Khufu. There was intrigue with the afterlife and possible ways of resurrection. Even the wealthy, strong, powerful and mighty are eventually conquered by death.

My thoughts go to Hebrews 9:27. “And as it is appointed unto men to die, but after this the judgment.”  All of us, whether Pharaoh or lowly worker, will face our Creator one day. In my own family we have become more acquainted with death this past week with the passing of a family member into eternity.

In light of that, how should we approach each new day? What investment will you make today in the souls of humans and God’s Word (the two things that will last forever)? A wise woman told me once that ‘eternity’ should be stamped on the back of my eyelids.

I am th(i)nkful, meditating on things I want to give thanks for,  in regards to eternity:

  1. I do not not need to build a huge pyramid to ensure that God will raise me from the dead (I Corinthians 15:52).
  2. God has numbered all my days (Psalm 139:16).
  3. Man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9).
  4. Keeping eternity in focus helps me keep the goal clear in my vision (Hebrews 12:2).
  5. God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7).
  6. God has provided enough wherewithal for me to do His will. I will not run out of grace (Ephesians 2:10; I Corinthians 10:13).
  7. Hebrews 13: 20-21. Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

What are You Th(i)nkful for in Regards to Eternity?

God is God. God is good. God is good at being God.

Thank you, God, for the gift of another breath, help me live my remaining days filled with trust in Your character and purposes. May I overflow with thankfulness, expressing it liberally to You and others.

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Thankful in vs. Thankful for

004853F9-94D8-4CB3-B1D5-D78D2CB97AF8Difference Between In and For

The difference between giving thanks in and giving thanks for is worth pondering.

Recently while discussing this topic with some friends, the question arose on how a person could give thanks for horrific things that had happened to them. It seems totally absurd to give thanks for trauma and abuse.

We rehearsed the verses from I Thessalonians 5:18 and Ephesians 5:20 where we are instructed to give thanks in all circumstances as well as giving thanks always for all things. How do we make sense of giving thanks for all things?

I want to compare the concept of giving thanks in the circumstance compared to giving thanks for the circumstance.

Begin with Giving Thanks IN

“Giving thanks in” is giving thanks for the good things all around your dark reality, points of light in the middle of the storm, though it feels so uncomfortable to do so. Perhaps you can only focus on Scripture’s promise that God will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5b). Maybe you can think thanks that this circumstance is helping you remember that life is a vapor and soon it will be gone. There is a purpose for you right now and in your immediate circumstance – you are to please God (2 Cor.5:9).

We trust in the sovereignty of our God. He has promised to not test us above what we are able. He has promised to never leave nor forsake us. We cry out to our Creator God to hold us and comfort us in our distress. He knows all we have gone through and are going through. It’s hard to trust Him though when my heart is so crushed, but we must. And we must begin to think thanks.

Rise to Giving Thanks FOR

“Giving thanks for” is actually thanking God for the dark thing itself, because by it God achieved a greater good. As time passes and you get a better view of how God is shaping things, you often recognize the great void and terrible loss of gospel opportunity there would have been without the trial.  You would have been happier and busy somewhere else, and God’s profound work would have been undone. That’s when you learn to embrace the trial itself.

But that is deep blue hero stuff.  It took a long journey for Joni Eareckson Tada to come to the place where she gave thanks for her horrific accident that changed her life completely. Joni became a quadriplegic as a result of a diving accident and by it has had the chance to minister to hundreds of thousands around the world. The friend that helped her through the early days of that trial, Steve Estes, said:

“God permits what he hates to accomplish what he loves.”                

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“I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of ages.” Charles Spurgeon

Th(i)nkful Repels Grumpy

Natural Forces

Don’t you love how fast little round wheels can make you go on a skateboard?

There is another natural force that also interests me.  When you put two magnets together, one side attracts and one repels.  That is just the way it is.  I love being able to take advantage of something that just is because God put it into nature.

One of the advantages of being th(i)nkful is that it naturally repels complaining.  When grumpy meets th(i)nkful, they repel each other.  repelling 3In other words they are not good bedfellows. One has to leave.

When you choose to think thanks about every circumstance in your life, whether those circumstances are positive, neutral, or negative, you are creating a natural repellent to ingratitude and complaining.

When our kids were little, I would teach them the ABC’s of Scripture memory.  We had a verse for every letter of the alphabet.  I can still quote those verses as we drilled them often into our minds.  RepellingThe ‘D’ verse was “Do all things without murmuring and disputings.” (Phil. 2:14).

Complaining and murmuring seemed to come very easily to young children, and well, for that matter, to not so young children. In fact, even as adults, most of our problems seem to be rich people problems. “I lost my iPad, or our dryer just died, or we muddied our really good track shoes, or I didn’t get to the sale on time.” We are blessed to even having such problems.

Choosing to think thanks about whatever it was that initiated the complaining had a way of expelling the ingratitude.

Choose to be Thankful

Really, it is not that hard.  Just choose to be thankful! Repelling 1You refuse to think the grumpy thoughts of complaining and instead exercise your will to think thanks about whatever is in front of you.

The beautiful natural thing that happens is that you begin to repel the negative force of murmuring and you experience grace to embrace prickly things that God has ordained in your life to make you more like His Son.

My Own Choice

I am writing this to stimulate you to think thanks, but I’ll let you in on a secret.  I need to be reminded of these principles myself.  David and I have had the unique privilege of doing extensive traveling this past year and it is not over yet.  Our journeys have taken us from New Zealand to China; Seattle to Philadelphia; Kansas to Wisconsin.  Later this year we are moving to Amanzimtoti, South Africa.  Yes, it is amazing.  I really do love it.  BUT…it is exhausting and I struggle to choose gratitude at times.

So, let me make a th(i)nkful list in regards to travel:

  1. We get to experience and learn so many new things
  2. Our own view of life is challenged when we observe how others live
  3. Seeing how big the world is makes us realize how big our God is
  4. We get to taste different foods
  5. Connection with the Body of Christ all over the world is extremely encouraging
  6. We get a vast amount of exposure to illustrate lessons of life
  7. We may be a connection point for other people
  8. God gives us enough strength to do His will

So here’s to future trips coming up! I choose to think thanks and get on my roller blade.  David, I am right behind you! 🙂

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Simple Travel Tips

There are tricks you can put into use that ease the difficulties.

  • Plan out a clothes package that mix and matches
  • Drink lots of water to help with air travel
  • Perhaps take an aspirin the day before air-travel to thin your blood
  • When flying, get up and move from time to time to avoid bloodclots
  • Have a checklist to go over so you don’t forget important things like charging cords, brush or comb, makeup, toothbrush and toothpaste, inflatable neck pillow, headphones, reading material
  • Have a toiletry bag with things just for travel if possible
  • Keep thank you cards in your suitcase

 

Ministering Thoughtfully

The Power of Compassion

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Family Visit To Grandmother In The Hospital

Have you ever had someone come visit you in the hospital when you were sick?  Isn’t it amazing how you remember that so well?  The morning my mom died, our pastor’s wife, a dear personal friend, came to our house.  She didn’t say much, she went into the kitchen and started to do my dishes.  She was just there.  Wow!  I can hardly think back on that without tears.

What makes those visits stand out so much in our memories?  The answer is “connection,” a bond formed simply through a quiet presence and a listening heart.

Consider the difference between empathy and sympathy.  Recently I watched a 2.53 minute YouTube video by Dr. Brené Brown on that topic.  Although I may not agree with all she said, she gave me food for thought. Empathy connects a person who is going through something hard with someone who cares and listens.  When a person is going through a challenging time, the last thing they may want to hear is: “Just write down things you are thankful for.” You first have to have the connection.

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“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

How Do You Inspire Others

Come. You need to be there. Two of the greatest promises the Lord has given us are, “I am with you always,” and “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Being there for someone is being like Him.  We worry about what to say, but that’s not our main role. A cat or a dog can be a comfort, and they say nothing – they are just there.

Listen.  Maybe the person does want to talk about what is troubling them. Good.  Just listen.  Tell them that you are thankful they shared with you, that you can imagine it is so hard.  In time, if connection is made and the person feels safe, they may be open for solutions, but don’t rush that.  Let them become thirsty for options and ready to hear.

Pray.  Pray for them specifically, and pray for you to have wisdom. Pray for grace for them to pass this test. God is the One that untangles the mess. We cannot help everyone, but need to do the will of the Father – like Jesus did.  Discover what that is through the Word and the Spirit’s guidance.

Serve.  Look for practical things you could do for them that would be helpful. Make a meal.  Take care of their kids.  Bring a present.  Send a personal note or text.  Visit them in the hospital.

Recall. One of the most powerful ways to inspire others is to share your own story, how you came through a struggle.  No one can argue with that.  It is yours.  If you personally have been helped by cultivating gratitude in your thoughts, you can share that.

Own. Being th(i)nkful works, but you must own it yourself before you can do it well. To own something you have to believe in it. You have to be convinced that God actually means what He says in I Thessalonians 5:18. “In every circumstances give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  When sharing the concept of thinking thanks, give the other person time to own it themselves before trying it.

Share. Tuck in your pocket I Corinthians 10:13 in case you get the chance to share the promises located there. God says that He will “with the testing make a way of escape.” Notice that it is with the testing, not from the testing.  God helps give us escape while the testing is ongoing. Could a possible ‘way of escape be thinking thanks?

Three Lessons from Having Received Ministry

  1. Thank the Lord for motivating the person who did the compassionate thing and reached out.
  2. Express to that person how incredibly helpful it was to receive their ministry.
  3. Be inspired to BE that to someone else.

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