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

choosing gratitude 14

 

“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.

Don’t Worry

Musa Ukukhathazeka!blog about not worrying

The Zulu words for Don’t Worry! look daunting indeed. 🙂  Actually they are not really that hard.  Just sound it out (but the “h” is silent).

At age 58, my husband and I began learning the Zulu language.  For a while, I struggled with being th(i)nkful about it.  Seriously.  But now it is exhilarating to feel more and more comfortable with Zulu words. I find that some Zulu words come to mind that capture an idea better than English words do. Haha!

Worries of the Rich

Matthew 6:30-33 describes a lesson that we are to learn from the grass of the field with its beautiful wildflowers.

blaaklokkerBut if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

We are not to be anxious. The God who clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, is going to clothe us. He is going to take care of us. We do not need to worry.  In fact, He says DON’T do it.

Basic food, basic clothing, and basic shelter are pretty easy to come by, but because most of us have much more, we worry more.  We have what we call “rich-people problems.”  Think about it. We worry about the car accident, the air conditioner’s broken condenser, the college bills, the alarm system going on the blink again, the app on my cell phone not working.  We don’t stop to think that we actually have cars, air conditioners, higher education, properties to guard, and cell phones … when most of the world does not.  Perspective.

Norwegian Blåklokker

Screen Shot 2019-05-20 at 1.20.47 PMZooming up from Zululand, where we live now at the bottom of the earth … to Norway at the top of the earth, let me take you on a short trip.  I grew up in a little town called Brumunddal, Norway.  My father built a house that we called ‘Solheim’ on the hillside of Bjørgeberget.

I sometimes would walk in the forests around our home and one day came across these beautiful blåklokker – flowers we call “blue bells.”  20190516_220628They happened to bloom close to my birthday in July.  I was so thrilled to find such beauties in the meadow on my birthday.  I loved them. These wildflowers were so very delicate … frail … exquisite.

Th(i)nkfulness Attacks Worry

My heavenly Father, who created the blåklokker, also created me and you. He has got this!  He is completely in control.  You do not need to worry.  You can substitute the worry with trust and thankfulness.a blog on bluebells 2

Instead of focusing on your item of worry, focus on the character of your Creator God. He has made promises to you that He will make all things come together for your Christlike good if you have trusted in him as your Savior (Romans 8:28).  He is sovereign and completely trustworthy.  He is within you and with you; obviously you can’t escape His notice.  He is using what you are going through to shape you into “Jesus in your skin.”  He has to keep His promises.

Engaging in th(i)nkfulness drives worry away.

What are you th(i)nkful for today? My list is:

  • The sound of the waves of the Indian Ocean
  • We had Zulu class with Ignatia yesterday
  • This past weekend we gathered with believers from Grace-Toti for a family camp
  • Romans 15:13
  • The Lord tenderly cares for me like a father does for his beloved child
  • When things that are difficult happen in my life, I can be assured that He has a purpose and a plan to use it to make me more like Jesus if I respond biblically
  • This life is a vapor
  • My Savior has removed my sin and reconciled me with my Creator God
  • Our precious daughter-in-law’s pregnancy is going so well even though it had a rough beginning
  • I Corinthians 10:13 promises that He will not test me above what I am ablea blog on bluebells

Ikke bekymre deg (Norwegian)

Musa ukukhathazeka (Zulu)

Don’t worry (English)

4 L’s

What Is Your Biggest Sin-problem?

My grad school professor looked at all of us in class and asked: “What is your biggest sin problem?”a 4 L's post 2 He said that, in order for us to learn to be good counselors of others, we first had to be able to self-counsel.  Our assignment was to identify a sin pattern that we personally struggled with and to track it for six weeks.

And so, we began. We charted when we struggled most, when we failed and gave in to the temptation, and when we were able to resist and have victory.  We studied out how to avoid the places of temptation, to be vigilant during the hours of typical temptation, how to respond when tempted, and how to fight back by renewing our thoughts, replacing the evil with the good. It was a very profitable and eye-opening assignment for me.

4 L’s

I would like to present a tool from James 1 that could perhaps help you fight temptation.  I am certain that, if you are human, you are fighting some kind of temptation.  It may be sexual sin, covetousness, lying, stealing, worry, gossip, anger, bitterness, selfishness, or greed.  The list is long. God can use the battles with these temptations to mold us into the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus, but the fight is REAL.

Here are the 4 L’s:

  1. Locate – identify the temptation (James 1:14)
  2. Link – connect the test with the Lord (James 1:2)
  3. Linger – stay a while with Him and describe the temptation with blatant honesty and cry for wisdom (James 1:5-6)
  4. Lieu – replace temptation with something (James 1:22)

a 4 L's post 3Locating or identifying the temptation is a huge part of victory (James 1:14).  Personally I struggle with worry.  It is insidious and sneaks into the depths of my soul.  I want to comfort-eat to relieve the pressure that I feel and get my mind off the vexatious thoughts. When I react sinfully, I feel badly afterwards because I know that I have not responded in a Christ-honoring manner. So if I am able to shine the flashlight on the temptation by locating it, that is a great start.

Linking or connecting the test with the a 4 L's blog 4Lord is the next key. We are told in James 1:2 that we are to count it joy when we are tested. Jesus said we should ask the Father, “do not to lead us into temptation.” He doesn’t tempt us with sin, but He allows the situation to make us stronger under pressure (vv. 3-4), and to motivate us to call out to Him for help (vv. 5-8).

In my own situation I felt like I could locate the temptation (anxiety) and link to the Lord right away by asking Him for help.  But I find that often my focus is still on the temptation – for instance, I am getting more anxious as I pray. 😦

But when I begin to think thanks within the test, and for the test, I am able to link more profitably with the Lord.  Saying out loud the things that I am thankful for right in the middle of the test, and then giving that thanks to God, grows my strength to fight.

“Count it all joy” means being th(i)nkful

a 4 L's post 5Lingering with the Lord and sharing honestly with Him what I am struggling with, and even what I am tempted to do in sinful reaction, is like releasing the pressure that the temptation builds up. The sin especially flees if I speak it out loud or write it down. You shock yourself as you see your hand spell out the sin.

Rehearsing the promises that 1) God was with me, and 2) He designed and desired me to be victorious, and 3) He made wisdom available for free if I confidently asked just fueled my courage to trust in His help.  If forgiveness was needed, He welcomed me with open arms. As I lingered with the Lord, my focus became different.

In Lieu Of, or the replacement principle, is the action part of winning over temptation. What you focus on you give power to.  If I say “don’t steal this, don’t steal this,” I am repeating “this” and “steal” many times – not good.  If I have the temptation to steal, I should immediately go to the front of the store and pay for someone’s purchase, or give a store clerk some money to say thanks for all of the people who don’t. Look at Ephesians 4:28!

This is the embodiment of being a doer of the word and not just a hearer (James 1:22-25).  I need to replace the temptation.  Problem with text-gossiping? Put it down and get busy. Think it out! Have a plan ready.a 4 L's post6.jpg

  • Get down and do 10 sit-ups
  • Put on your running shoes and get outside and run
  • Vacuum
  • Take a shower
  • Sing a chorus out loud
  • Read a book that edifies your soul
  • Write down 10 things that you are thankful for right now

Winning?

Hey, this is just a simple suggestion, but it is helping me.  When I did that six-week assignment back in grad school, it made me aware of how advantageous it is to have a plan.  Being th(i)nkful is a key in winning over temptation.

Download grace/help from the Lord to think thanks in every circumstance – even for tests, trials, and temptations – as James 1:2-4 mentions.  Then express that thanks orally or in a written form.  If you are in Christ, you don’t have to live a defeated life!

a 4 L's post 1

 

LOCATE  ~ LINK ~ LINGER ~ LIEU 

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.

The Brain and Thinking

Our Amazing Brains

When God created mankind in His likeness, He gave us an amazing brain. Simply put, the brain controls the mental and physical processes and the actions of a human being.brain 3

Ready for a big word?  Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change throughout an individual’s life.

It can be shaped very much like a ball of Play-Doh, albeit with a bit more time and effort. 🙂

Scientists claim that the brain is capable of being re-engineered – its shape, size, and functions modified – and that we are the engineers.

“Thought changes structure … I saw people rewire their brains with their thoughts, to cure previously incurable obsessions and trauma.” ~ Norman Doidge, Canadian-born psychiatrist and author of The Brain That Changes Itself.

Complaining and the Brain

My friend, Joanna Chapmon, sent me an article on how complaining affects the brain.brain 1 This is a visual of what happens when we constantly complain.

The neural pathways that we engage in when complaining actually change the shape of the brain, causing us to complain even more!

When we instead choose to be th(i)nkful, we can also change our brains. By choosing to think thanks about every situation in our lives we change the shape of our neural brain pathway making it easier to think thanks in the future.  Our brains are not stagnant, but continually change as they are programmed through repeated thoughts and attitudes throughout our days.

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Proverbs 17:22

The admonitions in scripture from Ephesians 4:23 and Romans 12:2 sure make a lot more sense in the light of this discovery – we must renew our minds.  But amazingly, by doing so, we can actually change the inner workings of our brains to make renewed thoughts flow more naturally.  The Lord wants us to worship Him with our thoughts.  When we choose to think thanks, we are obeying His will for us as stated in Ephesians 5:20 and I Thessalonians 5:18.  Give thanks always in every circumstance!

Th(i)nkful’s Benefits

The brain article mentioned pointed out:

“In depression, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the brain. It’s simply that the particular tuning of neural circuits creates the tendency toward a pattern of depression. It has to do with the way the brain deals with stress, planning, habits, decision-making and a dozen other things — the dynamic interaction of all those circuits. And once a pattern starts to form, it causes dozens of tiny changes throughout the brain that create a downward spiral.”

Although there can be physical reasons for why someone becomes clinically depressed, there are often major reasons connected with the person’s thought patterns. Just think of the positive effects on a person’s brain when he/she engages in a pattern of th(i)nkfulness.

gibbJane Gibb, a dear co-worker of mine, shared with me how she was struggling with some stress at a particular time. She decided to engage thinking thanks about that situation, and as she cultivated the thought pattern of looking for things to give thanks for in her situation and started writing things down, the stress lessened.  She benefited.  She was putting God’s Word into practice by renewing her mind.

Challenge

So how are you programming your brain these days?  You are programming yourself whether on purpose, or not.  Do you naturally gravitate towards complaining about a situation or do you instead look for things to be thinkful about in that situation?

I challenge you to begin aggressively carving out some new th(i)nkful neural pathways that will not only help you grow in Christ as He desires, but also benefit you physically as well.

Further study:

  • Professor Richard Restak, Optmizing Brain Fitness.
  • Dr. Caroline Leaf, a South African neurologist,  has done extensive work on the thinking and the brain.

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

3 Benefits of Being Th(i)nkful

1. Being Th(i)nkful Helps Us Process Life

Inspiration 1 IBM Electronice Data Processing Machine by NASA 1957

Here’s a processing tool. This is a picture of an IBM computer lab taken in 1957. The computer does its primary work in a part of the machine we cannot see, a control center that converts data input into information output. The computer is able to process information that has been entered into its memory bank. How far we have come from these huge machines to our I-phones processing info right in our hands.

Th(i)nkful is a processing adjective.  It describes a person who is processing things happening around them, in them, and to them, taking the input and converting it to gratitude.

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

We process all the time.  Mostly it happens automatically, the brain repeating the same neural pathway that we have taught it to do over and over again. Being th(i)nkful is choosing to process life differently.  That takes effort; it moves us out of our comfort zone.  It is hardest at first, just like blazing a new trail through the woods or forming any good habit, but with repetition, it becomes easier.

2.  Being Th(i)nkful Breeds Inspiration Inspiration

Inspiration has to do with being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. I have received inspiration from hearing how other people did something.  I have a friend who is always reaching out to her neighbors with brownies, building relationships.  When I hear about her doing that, it inspires me to do likewise.

Taking the mental effort to think thanks about what is going on in my life and expressing that can be very inspiring to others.  They may feel an urge to also be th(i)nkful about their circumstances. An added benefit is that if you write down your expressions of gratitude in a journal, you can inspire even yourself years later as you reread those pages.

3.  Being Th(i)nkful Is Obedience

The Bible is full of exhortations to be thankful.  I Thessalonians 5:18 spells it out starkly:  In all circumstances give thanks. Both Ephesians and Colossians, the Twin Epistles, give specific commands to be thankful.  Colossians has a verse in each of its four chapters dealing with being thankful and in the third chapter there are three verses in a row that urge the reader to be thankful.

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

                                                                               Colossians 3:15-17

canine-dog-pet-cute-fur-nose-ears-training-sitting-obey-obeying-begging-780x520

Have you ever taken a dog to obedience school?  It is pretty tricky to teach obedience to a dog.  In training, you give them a series of tests to see whether they will overcome, still obey, and do what they’ve learned.  If successful, you will enjoy the company of your canine to an even higher degree. When we learn obedience, just like our four-legged friends, we become a joy to our Father.

If we love the Lord, He says we will obey His commandments from the heart.  The commands of Christ were given by Him as our Creator for our benefit, to keep us from scars and destruction, and to push us toward a flourishing life. And He sends tests to see whether we will still obey, and with the tests He makes His grace downloadable.  Thankfulness in the good times is easy; thankfulness amid the dark wind and waves is altogether different.  We should obey, but in our obedience is also our overcoming.

So….there you have it!  3 blessings that come from being th(i)nkful:

  1. It helps us process life
  2. It serves as an inspiration to others as well as to ourselves
  3. It honors God by simply obeying

 

Inspiration 4

 

 

Th(i)nkful and Take 5

Even a Child Can Do It

Take 5 3

Our son Nick and his family seem like a perfect family.  They look like they must always be kind to each other; their children are probably good and kind and share all the time.

Well, if you are human, you realize that is not the case.  They struggle like every family struggles.  There is always an ongoing fight to do what is right.

A while back one of their children developed a real rage problem.  I am the Yaya (what my grandchildren call me), and on one visit even I saw that this was a real difficult puzzle.  Nick and Julia asked us to pray for them to have wisdom and discernment, and so we did earnestly. I am sharing about this with their permission and with the hope that their story could help others.

One particular evening the anger again came to a head.  Take 5 1Nick and Julia had been reading different things to try and find some answers, and they had come up with a plan.  As Nick started to talk to his child he laid down some rules that the child needed to follow when he began to feel great anger.  The idea was to help him get control of these overwhelming feelings he was experiencing.  They called it “Take 5.”

Take 5

  1. Take deep breaths
  2. Count from 1 to 10, and then count backward from 10 to 1
  3. Say one thing that you are thankful for
  4. Practice smiling even if you don’t feel like it
  5. Pray to God for help

The first two cause a person to break from the aggravating situation, slow things down, and let off some steam.  But Nick and Julia chose being th(i)nkful as the exercise that tends to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).  Forcing yourself into a thought-search for positive things tends to eat the stuffings out of anger.

Take 5 has helped tremendously!  Not only has it helped their child control his anger outbursts much better, but also the parents, and grandparents (!) have benefited from this exercise.  It is simple enough for a young child to implement, but effective enough for anyone, young or old. Hearing this little guy pray to God for help is so inspiring. We, too, can pray to God for help and He hears and answers us.

After a season of their child experiencing victory, Nick and Julia happened upon a candy bar that was called Take 5.  🙂  Take5One evening their little guy was allowed to stay up after the others had gone to bed, and just Daddy, Mommy, and the little victor each got to enjoy a Take 5 bar. Hearing about this made my heart smile.

You Choose Th(i)nkfulness

Just like a little child seeking to get control over his or her emotions and choosing one thing that they are thankful for, we as adults can combat both the flurry and fury of negative emotions by choosing to be thankful. It requires a choice.

So, I shared the Take 5 concept with a friend recently and within a day she texted me that she had put it to use. At the end she commented, “Take 5 is not just for 4-year-olds!”

Thanks requires choice.  

Being Th(i)nkful Promotes Healing

Being Th(i)nkful at Midnight

Psalm 119:62 says “At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You because of Your righteous judgments.” Often when I am not able to sleep, I get up and go to the kitchen, make a cup of tea, read in my Bible and begin to journal my th(i)nkful lists.

Write it down

It brings healing for my soul.

Writing down how God is doing wondrous things from infinite to infinitesimal builds healing in my broken pieces and hope. He is infinite mind and infinite power and is the sovereign designer and ruler over all of my circumstances.

Thinking Thanks About My Trauma

A car hijacking at gunpoint and being awoken by someone stealing inside our house while we were sleeping were some of the worst traumatic incidents of my life. Many others have gone through much more difficult scenarios.Members Of Support Group Sitting In Chairs Having Meeting

It is interesting to experience this after going through some trauma.  Every time you retell your traumatic story, you get rid of a little more of the sting.  An old Swedish proverb states: “A burden shared is a burden halved; a joy shared is a joy doubled.”

If you’re of a th(i)nkful mindset, you can strengthen other people by sharing 1) the Scripture that came to mind to guide and comfort you in the furnace, 2) the ways in which your trauma could have been worse, and 3) the ways that you’ve become stronger and wiser as a result of the test, and 4) the ways in which your relationships with God and others have become deeper and less self-serving.

Passing Along Th(i)nkful Skills

I had this happen to me recently in Egypt.  A couple had gone through traumatic incidents in South Sudan were they served at an orphanage. Seeking to build relationships, David and I chatted with them about some of the traumatic experiences we had in South Africa. I mentioned my hijacking incident and said that Philippians 4:8 had been an anchor for my thoughts.

Although my hijacking incident did not end in death or severe pain, I had been tempted to think out the “what if’s.”  The words “think on what is true” arrested my panicking thoughts.  I was so thankful for how the truth of God’s Word helped heal me from my trauma.  Focusing on verses concerning God’s sovereignty build my confidence in His meticulous providence – all the details of my life are orchestrated for my Christlikeness and His glory.  There was no alternate ending to my trauma; it was what He planned.  In fact, I am immortal, invincible and indestructible until God is finished with me.  And when His story called “Karin’s life” is finished, there is nothing that will keep me here!

The next day our new friends came up to us and shared how something difficult had happened with some of their friends just the night before, and how they used Philippians 4:8 to encourage and comfort them. God’s Word had ministered not only to me, but sharing how I had been helped by God’s word, had ministered to others. Praise Him!

 

It’s a good thing to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name,
O most High. Psalm 92:1

promoting health 1

We cannot think thanks about our trauma unless we trust that God is sovereign in all our affairs. We see in the scriptures that thinking the way God desires us to, trusting in Him and acknowledging Him in our ways, brings healing to us.  That healing begins in our soul and can minimize physical stress-induced illness as well.

Following Proverbs 3:5-7 brings us to Proverbs 3:8. “It will be healing to your flesh, and refreshment to your bones.”

Trust in the Lord’s sovereign design, purposes and control, and then think thanks, no matter how bitter your grief. Allow grace to help you process your trauma through the grid of th(i)nkfulness. Ultimate physical healing is when we receive our perfect bodies in heaven.

Th(i)nkful is an adjective and used just like thankful.  The difference is to simply highlight that to be truly thankful, you have to choose to think thanks and express it.

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Th(i)nkful (adj) ~ choosing to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in your life and express that thanks orally or in a written form.

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