Powerless

Balcony Chat

David and I enjoy eating on our balcony a blogpost about thanks 1when the weather affords it – which is often here in Southern Africa. Today we were discussing the oncoming challenges of Covid-19, and feeling a bit overwhelmed I asked him, “What is a good verse for such a time as this?”

After pondering for a moment, David responded with “our eyes are on you” from 2 Chronicles 20:12.  The setting for that verse is King Jehoshaphat and the great horde of three aligned armies coming toward them. The nation of Israel looked small and meager in comparison to all the enemies marching toward them. They felt overwhelmed and frightened, so the king called out to the Lord in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem and he said:

“O our God, will you not execute judgment on them?  For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 

An interesting note is that as the people prepared to go out to face their enemy, King Jehoshaphat appointed specific people to go out front in special attire and … amazingly … sing thanksgiving to the Lord.  How many armies have you ever heard of that had singers as the front line?  This is what they sang (verse 21): “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

First Thank

What a great model for us to do when we feel overwhelmed by all that is happening around us.  The “great horde coming against us” is the coronavirus; one doctor said “I view every person coming toward me on the street as a bullet – it might graze me, hurt me badly, or kill me.”

We are fearful of the unknown, and fearful of the responses government and business are making to the unknown.  We don’t know what to do, but we will fix our eyes on the Lord.  We will choose to think thanks right in the middle of the battle.  Just like the Israelites had no idea how God was going to work this all out; they still sent singers to sing thanks to the Lord.a blogpost on first thank 2

Like most people, I struggle so much with ambiguity. It is a hard thing for us as humans.  Right now there is LOTS of ambiguity.  But this is exactly what God has designed for us presently.  So, with God’s help, I want to grab that ambiguity and think thanks right in the middle of it and power through the difficulty on the supernatural wings of gratitude and grace.

I relate easily with Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 where he pleads for the Lord to remove his thorn in the flesh.  The Lord graciously answers no, but adds that His grace is sufficient for him, for His power was able to make him just perfect in weakness.

This, too, will pass. Even if we should lose our earthly lives, we will be with the Lord forever.

So What Happened?

You would not believe it.  2 Chronicles 20:22 says: “And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush…”  The enemies around the Israelites started to turn on each other, the whole alliance melting down such that they obliterated each other.  By the time the Israelites arrived at the watchtower of the wilderness to look toward the horde in verse 24, the enemy was all dead, just bodies everywhere.

When they began to sing and praise!! The Lord is pleased when we are thinkful. When we choose to think praise and express it even when our circumstances are dreadful around us, we power through in faith offering up a sacrifice of praise and trust in the Almighty One.

So what about me? How can my thinkfulness change the great horde of Covid-19 that is approaching?  How can my choosing to think thanks help when people around me are dying, loosing their jobs, and facing hopeless circumstances?

Well, here are a few things for which to be thankful:

  • God is getting our attention; even this great Western World is a vapor and is going to pass away soon;
  • God is giving families the opportunity to spend quality and quantity time together, for parents to invest in their first disciples;
  • God is bringing our impurities to the surface through the heat of change and pressure so that we can repent and yield that area to God;
  • God is giving us more opportunity to read and pray and write;
  • God is shifting our values away from vain entertainment industries and toward the meaningful others-serving medical and teaching professions;
  • God is teaching us to trust His character and promises even though we cannot understand His ways in this storm;
  • God has given mankind the smarts to invent electricity, the internet and tech devices through which we can communicate and gain valuable information (there was no such help in past great pandemics);
  • God is opening up opportunities for me, and little churches now going online, to witness about the hope and forgiveness found in Jesus;
  • God could be freeing me from the heart idols of comfort, control and people-pleasing that have dominated my life;
  • God is giving a precious opportunity to meet on Zoom with a supporting church

 

Allentown Bible Church

Powerless Is Good

That statement seems so contradictory.  How can it be true that when I am powerless, I can be strong?  It is because we have a supernatural God.  He delights in showing Himself mighty on our behalf, but doesn’t delight in doing what we tell Him to do. No, His ways are higher and better (Isaiah 55:8-9). He delights when we let go, open our hands, worship Him and embrace our Father’s will in our lives no matter what He chooses.

a blogpost about first thank 1

“For the sake of Christ, then I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

2 Corinthians 12:10

Thinkful Going Viral

Screen Shot 2020-04-06 at 2.21.10 PMGoing Viral

Sometimes it’s a video of a reporter suddenly seeing an approaching wild animal, or neighbors welcoming home a teenage cancer patient, or an incident of heroism or racism, we are used to referring to a rapidly spreading story as “going viral.”

YouTubers hope that their music, sports, cooking, drone or humous video will go viral and get a million hits. Famous people thrive on seeing their tweets go viral – even negative attention is better than no attention at all, right?

What Does Viral Mean?

A couple definitions of viral are:

  • of the nature of, caused by, or relating to a virus or viruses:“a severe viral infection”
  • contagious; descriptive of an image, video, or piece of information that is circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another – “it went viral

Lately, we have heard the word “virus” a lot – almost too much to bear. The coronavirus has deeply impacted our lives; stopped our mobility, filled our hearts with heavy news, sent some of our loved ones to suffer or die alone, upended our economy, and snuffed out our jobs. This virus has demonstrated how the phrase “gone viral” got its name. From the first cases in Wuhan at the end of 2019 … to epidemic … to pandemic … to civilization-altering.

Imagine Good Viral

aaa viral post 4Can you imagine with me for a second how something good could go viral?  Let’s take the concept of a person being thinkful.  Here you have one person that chooses to download grace from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance that comes into their life.  They actively express that thanks. They either write it down, express it orally, or post it in written or video form on social media.

Let’s say they “infect” just two people to follow their example. Then those two people express how they are choosing to think thanks amid adverse circumstances and infect two more people. In a short time, the exponential power of “overcoming thinkfulness” can move a simple choice to pandemic status.

Example of Going Viral

Debbie began to float the idea of sewing face-masks to help our community. It started with her talking to a local doctor and then she garnered other ladies to help.

aaa viral post 6As of this evening, we have been able to provide over 400 face-masks for our Amazimtoti healthcare providers, police officers, and gas station attendants.

We now have Debbie, Chrisna, Sarah, Jacky, Daphne, and myself sewing like crazy to try to be a testimony for Jesus in a needy time. Common masks are almost impossible to get, so providing the masks with an insert about our church and scripture is greatly appreciated.  I love seeing it grow exponentially.

Thinkful Viral

The beauty and danger of something going viral is that it takes so little. Just one cough droplet or the accidental touch of an infected area can have huge ramifications. So also is the power of one person choosing to think thanks. aaa viral post 2It takes one person inspiring another and encouraging that person to do likewise. These days it likely happens on the computer from all our isolated homes.

Won’t you start? Just be the one to set the example. Many of you are already doing it; I see it on social media. You have developed brain neural pathways of looking for things to think thanks about throughout your days. You give your thanks to God as a present. He is deserving of this gift, this sacrifice of praise, even when we don’t understand His ways. Especially then.

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 Infection of Anxiety

Most Popular Bible Verse

Kelly Smith of our team here did some research and learned the Bible verse most Googled in 2019. Can you guess what it was?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6

anxious?No surprise. It will probably be the most popular verse for 2020 as well! Humans are typically anxious people. Do any of these words describe you?

Uneasiness, concern, care, worry, doubt, tension, alarm, distress, suspicion, angst, apprehension, misgiving, suspense, nervousness, disquiet, trepidation, foreboding, restlessness, perturbation, watchfulness, fretfulness, disquietude?

We struggle greatly in this area. If we are unable to control specific areas of our life, there is a compelling invitation to partake in anxious thoughts.

No wonder God compares us to sheep. Sheep believe that if there is a change, it will almost certainly be bad. Only sameness with a trusted shepherd allows them to lie down in green pastures. David said (Psalm 23) that our Shepherd is so powerful and trustworthy that we can pass through valleys of the shadow of death and fear no evil because He is with us!

Uncertain Worse Than Bad

The way we view uncertainty while continuing to move forward is called “ambiguity tolerance.”  Good leaders have to have high ambiguity tolerance as they move people forward to a “preferable future” that is far from certain. That’s why they are leaders. Regular people struggle with changes to the norm. We don’t do well with deviations from our daily routine, workplace, and normal companions. And now, enter Covid-19.

The new coronavirus at present has caused over 15 000 documented deaths worldwide (in a few days this number will sound wonderfully low). Just a few months ago no one really spoke about a coronavirus, now everyone talks about it. Countries and economies are shutting down to isolate and try to prevent spreading. Schools, church meetings, non-essential jobs, concerts, sports, and any large gatherings have been cancelled or greatly restricted.

In a matter of a few weeks our world has changed. There is so much fear, and even worse than what we see that is bad is the uncertainty about the future; our health, our finances, our food, our security.

But our God has not changed.

Relief – Your Importance

How can we find relief? It feels like we are caught up in a never ending web. We think we are starting to get on top of things, and then we hear of something new that sends us flying into the anxiety abyss. 😦

I have good news.

There is a way out.

The Lord will not test us above what we are able (1 Corinthians 10:13). He promises to guide us through the temptations to be anxious, if we will let Him.

He says, “Look at the birds.” You can consider sparrows that are everywhere on earth. You can pick out your favorite bird nearby – one of ours is the European Bee-eater [pics] – and ponder the importance of that little one to God.

 

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 6:24-25

He knows everything that you are anxious about. He loves you. These difficulties and challenges that plague you are not without reason. You are being shaped by them.

Relief – Your Connection

In this heat of the trial of the unknown, there is a prescription from our Father.

If you have reconciled with God, then you can call out to Him with your angst and worries, and accompany your requests with thanksgiving, He will pour over you supernatural peace. Peace that will fill your entire being and guard your emotions and your mental thoughts. That is a promise that He makes to us in Philippians 4:7 and He never ever goes back on His promises.

If there is unfinished business between you and your Creator, you must deal with it. Get things sorted out. This is not the time to delay!

He will direct your path, whether staying home here or going home to the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-9). In either case, it’s going to be ok. His ‘ok’ should be your ‘ok.’

Relief – Being Th(i)nkful

How about getting a piece of paper right now and writing down all your concerns before the Lord. Then connect each item with thanksgiving. Yeah I know, at first it feels impossible, but power through. Discover just a few things that you can give thanks for in the middle of the test.

My Thinkful List for Covid-19:

  1. The virus has a ‘wake-up’ element for humanity
  2. The virus is humbling the arrogance of nations and of scientism
  3. Around the globe, we are unified in a strange sense
  4. People become aware of how we affect each other
  5. Families are spending quantity and quality time together
  6. Prayer is becoming more popular
  7. People are talking about God and the afterlife
  8. As we prepare ourselves for harder times, we take stock and shift priorities
  9. The brokenness of the earth makes us eager for heaven
  10. Turns up the volume on the need to share the Good News of Christ

anxious 3

How about letting these words describe you:

Security, confidence, relief, assurance, serenity, contentment, calmness, tranquil, halcyon, untroubled, unruffled, mild, temperate, restful, composed, sedate, peaceful, amicable, irenic, collected, gentle, sober-minded, steady, genial, equable. 

“Thanking in the midst of a trial is the intentional exercise of a spiritual muscle, a choice to believe Him instead of our circumstances or feelings.”

Debbie Willoughby

Grow Down to Grow Up

Amazing Trees

Have you heard of the upside down tree?  The huge baobab tree here in Southern Africa has the unique feature of looking like it is topsy turvy with its roots sticking up in the air.aaa tree blog2

Although all trees may not have the radical look of the baobab, each species has its fascinating uniqueness.  And just think of all the products that we get from trees: fruit, paper, furniture, food, healing ointments and syrups, just to mention a few.

There are 60,065 tree species in world. Every tree, like every human, is unique.

Trees in the Bible

The Bible makes significant mention of trees – literally and figuratively.  The Garden of Eden had two very famous trees; the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life which God has kept cultivated in heaven’s greenhouses until the New Jerusalem is established (Rev. 22:2).20190312_193311

But the Scripture also pictures a person as a tree. What kind of tree would you be?  A person who loves God’s Word is a healthy tree (Ps. 1). King Nebuchadnezzar was a tree that got cut down (Dan. 4). Jesus likened people to trees, and said you can tell what kind of tree they are by their fruit (Mt. 7:15-19).

Screen Shot 2020-03-04 at 3.11.54 PMGrow Down to Grow Up

If you know anything about trees, you know that what is happening under the surface is even more important than what you see; the health of what you see is determined by what is happening down in the roots.

The same is true in the Christian life; what is happening in the privacy of our hearts and minds determines what is happening outwardly.

In the soil of my mind is Truth about God’s character, God’s work (in the world, in sending Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, even His work in my life), and God’s promises.Screen Shot 2020-03-04 at 3.13.06 PM.png

But in the soil of my mind there are also Lies of the world, the flesh and the devil driving fears, setting goals, promoting values, pushing attitudes about myself, about other ethnicities or classes, and about God.

My HEART is my core wanter that chooses where my roots are going to grow to draw up nutrients … either drawing on Truth or drawing on Lies. The Truth that my heart draws up feeds my THINKING, what I meditate on in my free time.

My THINKING in turn shapes my DESIRES; here is where the tree branches out – I have desires, drives, for what kind of wife I want to be, what kind of mom, my desires as a businessperson, desires for what I want to achieve as an athlete, desires for the depth of my walk with the Lord, desires of how I want my kids to turn out, desires for our holidays, cars, and homes.

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Those desires are fleshed out in my BEHAVIORS, moment by moment, enjoying things that line up with my desires, getting frustrated with things that are against them. Desires determine how I spend or save my money, how I perform at work, how often I share Christ or live like Jesus (hey, I am bearing some fruit!), how I interact with my teens, how I serve at church, when I get up and what I do first thing in the morning. Desires drive behavior.

EMOTIONS are the upper leaves, the tip of the iceberg. Toxic emotions flow all the way up from toxins in the heart, through bad thinking that skews my desires and can blend together with some other bad behaviors.

Then Comes The Test

Notice that when you look at both sides of the tree, they seem similar. A Christian can be drawing on lies that feed everything they do, and their leaves still seem pretty green. But then the winds, the waves, and the storms come.  Then comes the HEAT.

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It seems that only in the heat can we slowly see what a believer’s roots have been feeding on.  Jeremiah 17:5-10 speaks of two trees.

The first tree is in vv. 5-6: “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord [feeding on the lies of the world]. He is like a shrub in the desert and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

The green is gone; the leaves just fall away because they were fed by lies, not truth.

The second tree is in vv. 8-9: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

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Going For Thriving and Fruitful!

So, what is God’s desire for your life, a perfect life in His way of thinking?

  1. I must be born again by tapping into the Living Water (faith in Jesus Christ) – this requires a personal response to the gospel.
  2. I must be rooted, anchored and sustained by the Truth about God’s character, God’s work, and God’s promises – this requires a commitment to read His Word personally, to get a study Bible to read the notes, to listen purposefully and take notes during Bible studies and messages, maybe to listen to podcasts – whatever it takes to know our God well.
  3. My heart must constantly draw up Water and Truth to renew my mind, control my desires, and produce fruit – as the heat comes, it is critical for me to let go of lies I have been believing, keep my roots in the water and the Word of God, and in some cases, to even produce my best fruit in severe conditions.

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While these principles affect any behavior in your life, they certainly affect your ability to be th(i)nkful.  That’s why the th(i)nkful logo (bottom) is a tree.  Even with the heat bearing down on me, I know my God’s character, works, and promises and can think thanks in whatever circumstance He places me.

What Type of Tree Are You?

You may not be like the African baobab tree with your ‘crown’ looking like your ‘roots,’ but what would your ‘roots’ look like? Could your existing ‘roots’ support a mature tree that will stand strong in the heat and drought?

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Recounting

Jewelry from River Grass

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The tall grass in the river flowing by 7 Rivers Farm here in South Africa produces seeds, which local girls are turning into beaded jewelry for sale locally and overseas.

The Zulu call these chwabasi beads; in some places they are called imfibinga. They come in different shades of brown and gray, and we combine them with glass beads to make some absolutely stunning necklaces, bracelets, and now the latest addition ~ ear-rings.:)Recount 5

Our girls are learning a job skill, making an income, and learning budgeting as well. The Bead Shop, begun in January of 2017, is the first job-skills development project implemented at 7 Rivers, and hopefully the first of many to come.

Recount ~ Count Again

I am so excited to see these local women using local resources to create things that can be sold all over the world, and earn an income in the process. Cherise Smith has come up with some beautiful designs that the local girls are creating. Check out the Bead Shop link.Recount 3

But the training wasn’t easy at the beginning. Many of the ladies struggled with counting, with getting the repeating pattern correct, and with getting the lengths uniform. Often, necklaces had to be broken up; they had to start all over again. They needed to count and recount carefully; to consider and reconsider carefully.

We Need to Count and Recount

Counting reminds me of the discipline of being th(i)nkful. I have to learn to stop and count, not something I am making, but what God is making of me. There are light beads – I need to count my blessings. There are dark beads – I need to count it joy when I have trials. This mixture of bright and dark, of drab and colorful, is what makes a beautiful necklace. And what makes a beautiful life.

Recounting reminds me of taking the time to thoughtfully consider what God has done in me over time. Yes, I count as the days go by, but perhaps at Thanksgiving, or at the New Year, or on an anniversary, it is good for me to recount – to replay, reconsider, analyze and synthesize – what God is doing; to be thankful for the bigger picture He is revealing.

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” Psalm 9:1; see also 75:1 and 79:13

Thanksgiving Week

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This week is Thanksgiving week in the States. Families are usually trying to get together. There will be good food and times of giving thanks. Churches will often spend a service recounting thanks to God for what He is and what He has done.

In our home, we would have a thanksgiving scripture printed on a card for each person at their place setting that they could read orally between dinner and dessert and then share a thing they were thankful for.

But it doesn’t require a national holiday to recount our thanks to the Lord. Every morning when you wake, your mind can recount God’s wonderful deeds – just that you actually woke up. That is a good start. You have been given the gift of another day!

I choose to give thanks.

One of the reasons David the Psalmist was a man after God’s own heart is that he recounted the wondrous deeds of God. A Psalm often begins with him pouring out his fears and frustrations to the Lord … and then midway through, he begins to get God’s perspective on life and what is going on in his circumstances. He starts to recount the steadfast character of God and His blessings on us, His children.

recount 4Let’s pretend we are threading a th(i)nkful necklace with the 7 Rivers ladies. And let’s say that there are 7 beads in a set that we need to repeat to eventually make into a lovely necklace. Here are the 7 beads – repeat them 10 times:

  1. I am loved with an everlasting love
  2. I am forgiven of everything through the sacrifice of Jesus, His beloved Son
  3. I am important to Him
  4. I am being watched and studied by two spiritual kingdoms and several people
  5. I am being conformed to the image of Jesus
  6. He is coming back soon for me, for all of His children
  7. He has given us His Word and His Spirit to guide us until then

Just as the precious Zulu ladies count and recount their chwabasi beads to get it just right, we should be counting and recounting the blessings of our Creator.Recount 7

Choosing Gratitude

The Christian Captain from the Townships

It’s a pretty exciting time here in South Africa – we just won the Rugby World Cup! Choosing gratitude 12What’s just as noteworthy is that our first black captain, Siya Kolisi, led the team to the top. He is a Jesus-follower and rose from very humble beginnings.

In the old Apartheid South Africa (1948-1992), white people lived in the suburbs and worked in the cities. Blacks lived segregated in “townships” ringing the cities – places of poverty and crime, tiny homes and tin shacks crammed close together, poor public services, and dismal education.

Siya grew up in the Zwide township of Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  He was raised by his grandmother and was often unsure if he would have anything to eat during the day.  His favorite toy was a brick.

Reflecting on his childhood, Siya insists he was given the most important things in life – “love and support.” He frequently uses the word “tough” to describe his childhood, yet admits he didn’t realize it was so hard at the time; it was simply all he knew.

choosing gratitude 13He “fell off the wagon” a bit during his teen years even though he identified himself as a Christian. Eventually, he chose to be grateful for what he had, and began to work hard.

“While struggling with a lot of things personally — temptations, sins and lifestyle choices — I realized I wasn’t living according to what I was calling myself: a follower of Christ. I was getting by, but I hadn’t decided to fully commit myself to Jesus Christ and start living according to His way.

Walking alongside a spiritual mentor, I’ve been able to discover the truth and saving power of Christ in a whole new way. This new life has given me a peace in my heart I’d never experienced before. I don’t have to understand everything in life, and there are so many things I don’t, but I know God is in control of it all. My job is to do the best I can and leave the rest in His hands.”  – Siya Kolisi

Thankfulness? In South Africa?

Many people here consider this a struggle. Due to systemic corruption, unmanageable debt, the collapse of the electrical grid, and chronic crime, thousands of skilled South Africans are emigrating every month because they see a collapse coming.  About 15% of the houses on the market now are families leaving.

In a recent sermon series on a scriptural view of emigration, Pastor Des Venter spoke frankly about contentment. Contentment is wanting what you already have. It is focusing on and celebrating the good things in your God-given status quo.  He said we will not be content in another place if we have not learned to be content with our present place. Contentment comes from within.

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13 that he had learned to be content in whatever situation he was in. He had learned how to be poor and how to cope with an abundance of funds. He had learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Outside circumstances were beside the point; he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him.

Gratitude Creates Contentment

When you begin to incorporate thinking thanks about your present reality, you foster contentment in your ‘now.’ Many of us are problem-solvers; the downside of that is that we find no rest in our spirit until our issues are sorted out. Stopping for a minute and thinking thanks adds weight to the positive side of the scale and brings you back toward balance.Choosing-Gratitude

In expressing gratitude, your circumstances do not change, your mindset does.

Many South Africans are feeling much better about their country … simply because we won the rugby world cup. Why is that? Because we finally had something positive to focus on, and with hearts of gratitude, our outlook on our other and greater challenges somehow seems more positive.

Choosing to speak out and write down your thankfulness in the midst of hardships takes both hard work and a work of God’s grace. The Lord begins to knit your expressions of thanks into a beautiful creation that only He could provide the fortitude to accomplish.

“… Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ephesians 5:20

Screen Shot 2019-11-05 at 7.46.15 PMThe Choice of Gratitude

“For every Joni Eareckson Tada or Corrie ten Boom, there are countless others whose names and stories few have ever heard, who endure the worst that life has to offer and still come up thankful. Not unscarred, not unmoved, not functioning out of reality like robots, but still spotting reasons for hope and promise. They seem to know that the only thing more debilitating than what they’re going through would be going through it ungratefully.

No, the days don’t always get easier. The nights can still drag until utter exhaustion finally pulls a person under for a few hours’ sleep. But those who say “No” to resentment and “Yes” to gratitude, even in the face of excruciating pain, incomprehensible loss, and ongoing adversity, are the ones who really survive. They stand against the tide of memories, threats, loss, and sadness, and answer back. With gratitude.”

From Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy
By Nancy Leigh DeMoss

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“They seem to know that the only thing more debilitating than what they’re going through would be going through it ungratefully.” 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss

 

New Pathways

Your Brain and Your Mind

a post on working hard 1Let’s do an experiment. Using your left index finger, point to your brain. Now using your right index finger, point to your mind.

You paused. Yes, you did. We don’t necessarily think of our brain and mind as being the same thing. And they are different.

My husband will ask his students, “Does God have a brain?” and they pause. To say God is brainless just seems so wrong, but they know God is spirit, and a brain is a physical organ, so no, He doesn’t have a brain. David makes fun of the student for a while, but they are correct. God is infinite Mind, but has no brain.

In understanding the relationship between brain and mind, I like the analogy of a horse and an expert rider.  The two work together as one; when you hurt one, the other is affected as well. One day, your brain – that three-pound slab of tofu – will die with the rest of your mortal body … but your mind, an integral part of the soul-spirit, will live on.

Renewing Your Brain

Now. Here is something amazing. Renewing your mind can also renew your brain.

MIND: You have probably heard about renewing the mind, but let’s review quickly. Paul writes about it in several places:

  • Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind …”
  • Ephesians 4:22-24 – ” … put off your old self … and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God …”
  • Colossians 3:10 – “… having put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

The Lord is our owner; He bought us back. As with any computer or animal that you have acquired from someone else, or a child that you’ve adopted, there is a certain amount of reprogramming that needs to be done to stop the harmful old ways and dysfunctions and build in some new patterns.

We work, with God’s help, to put off old patterns of thought, speech and action. We put on new patterns that both honor God and are better for us. This re-patterning is called renewing the mind.  I love how this concept is developed in How People Change by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp. We don’t have to remain as we are.

BRAIN: But, how you choose to think about things also changes the physical structure – “the wiring” – in your brain.  In 1949, Donald Hebb, a Canadian neuropsychologist, wrote what has become known as Hebb’s axiom:

“Neurons that fire together wire together.”

Endoscope - neuronsThis is an actual endoscope photograph of neurons that have touched so many times, they have now formed synapses and connected. Whatever the thoughts were, they have now become a pattern … for better or worse.

Now follow me. Things we experience – whether a feeling, a thought, a sensation – flow like electrical charges through thousands of neurons (wires) that are arranged in a network. The ends of these neurons, called dendrites, are where electrical charges jump across to another neuron.

OK, a new thought pattern now enters, like choosing to be th(i)nkful.  Repeated charges shooting between two dendrites amazingly will form a new piece, called a synapse, that connects the neurons together to make a new pathway so that those thoughts or reactions will recur more frequently. This is why certain sounds or smells can trigger good memories or bad, and create giddiness or fear.

Hebb’s Rule explains that renewing the mind and renewing the structure of the brain go hand in hand. His research supports biblical truth. You can shape your brain’s neuronal architecture by choosing what you focus on.

A Testimony – Reshaping the Brain by Being Thinkful

I had someone send me this encouraging note regarding how she sought to implement thinking thanks in her life:a brain pathway

The practice of thinking thanks that I learned that day at your seminar has been life transforming. It has been the thing that has gotten me through difficult times. At first it was hard work. My mind would drift off my thankful list down a dark pathway of “what if’s” and I would have to pull myself back. But now it really has become a habit, and therefore it gets easier and easier! PTL for those new pathways in my brain. They have allowed me to sleep and work through difficult times. It is so amazing how God made our brain! Thank you for sharing these great principles with us!

Practicing thinking thanks even when it is quite hard to do so, will bring results. It will get easier as you develop the brain neural pathway of th(i)nkfulness.

Just Right Thinking Is Not Enough

Our relationship to Christ is not simply based on thinking His thoughts and acting the way He does. a worshipper

“We are more than thinkers. We are worshipers who enter into relationship with the person or thing we think will give us life. Jesus comes to transform our entire being, not just our mind. He comes as a person, not as a cognitive concept we insert into a new formula for life.”

(How People Change, Tim Lane/Paul Tripp)

Let God renew your mind and fill it with thankfulness. But go beyond merely seeing His hand or the greater good in your circumstances. Let your thanks be turned into worship of the Creator, loving Him for His names and attributes. Worship your Lord through your thinking.

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.