Don’t Worry, Be Happy

So, Where Did That Song Come from?

There is hardly a person that has not heard the hit song from the 80’s, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” One feels inspired to sing along with a smirk, embracing and promoting a stress-free approach to life.  Bobby McFerrin wrote the a cappella ditty back in 1988 after he kept noticing inspirational cards and posters with the slogan. So, where did the slogan come from?

The “Don’t Worry Be Happy” slogan was coined by Meher Baba (1894-1969), an Indian mystic who believed that he was God in human form – the Avatar.  He was silent – as in, he didn’t speak at all! – from 1925 till his death 44 years later, using other means of communication instead. Seems a paradox that the man who coined the slogan would have such a self-exalted view of himself and bring such confusion to his followers about the origin of true joy.

In an interview by Bruce Fessier for USA Weekend magazine in 1988, McFerrin said, “Whenever you see a poster of Meher Baba, it usually says ‘Don’t worry, be happy,’ which is a pretty neat philosophy in four words, I think.”

Smiley

smileyemojiClosely connected to the ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ philosophy is the famous Smiley sticker, the inspiration for many of today’s emojis.  Harvey Ball (not Forrest Gump) in 1963 is recognized as the original creator of the famous icon.

a blog on no worries 2I remember growing up in the 1970’s (that’s me with the camera) and buying smiley stickers with my allowance in the Brumunddal Bokhandle. This was a bookstore in the little Norwegian town of Brumunddal where I spent my childhood.  So exciting to spread joy and happiness all over my school books or backpack, really anywhere it would stick! 🙂

Don’t Worry, Rejoice Evermore

There is an interesting connection between “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and Philippians 4.  Profound actually!  It is a biblical command to not be worried and to rejoice in the Lord.

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7 (NLT)

Unlike trusting in the words of a Hindu mystic, or just bursting out in a self-help mantra, we can engage in anxiety-free joy because God is in control, and He says that if we take the trials He sends us right back to Him on our knees, He will give us help to cope with the difficulty.

Thankful Even Though …

The letter to the Philippians, written from jail, is about joy (odd, eh?) – joy in God, joy in His people, joy because of what He has done for us, and persistent joy even though times are tough. When times are tough, what does this passage say for us to do?a blog about no worries 4

  • Rejoice in the Lord, because other things and people disappoint us; because He lives; because He is the blessed controller of all my circumstances; because He is working out an amazing plan even though I can’t see it; because He will take me home; because He is coming back to fix this mess down here on earth; because He will make all things new.
  • Let people see you being considerate, because we typically close off and become self-focused when we are hurting; because people will be amazed at the power that causes a suffering person to serve others cheerfully; because when Jesus returns, we should be “caught” serving.
  • Don’t worry about anything, because it wastes energy, time, and sleep, and causes me to eat too much; because it poisons my soul and still doesn’t change the circumstances, because it indicts God for messing things up; because it pushes me to “help God” and to be the savior in the situation.
  • Pray and ask for specific supplies, because He often sends trials just so that we’ll talk to Him and get used to it; because He alone can do miracles, change hearts, heal bodies, heal relationships, bring job offers and business deals, give us great ideas, reveal the real problem, and do it at the perfect time; because at times He holds back until we call out to Him.
  • Make sure you are th(i)nkful, because He designed your trial for you at this time; because He will never leave you nor forsake you; because His Word (especially the Psalms) comes alive during hard times; because He is using the hammer, the rasp, and the furnace to make you into an original masterpiece, the first time in human history Jesus has been manifested in your form, and in your time and place.

One of the keys of not worrying and being happy is being th(i)nkful.  As we give thanks, even for our challenges, we obey the exhortation of Philippians 4:6.  He promises to fill us with His peace that is supernatural and is the guardian of our emotions and minds.

Our confidence and trust in the One who has everything in control is what enables us to be able to say “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

What about using the bridge of this popular song and the Smiley sticker to transition your conversation today to spiritual things with a nonbeliever with whom you interact?

 

 

 

 

Am I Sapient?

The Sapient King

In a kingdom long ago there lived the wisest king that ever was.  His fame drove people to come and visit, just to observe this man.  He wrote over 3000 proverbs Affluent parkand 1005 songs, had all the riches he desired, and nothing was out of his reach. He taught people through his example in judging difficult cases – like when two mothers were arguing over one baby.  He built houses and planted vineyards, gardens, and parks with aqueducts and pools to water the trees. He employed skilled musicians and was surrounded by beautiful women.

As his life progressed a growing realization gnawed at his soul: without God, everything is vanity under the sun. Being thankful and content with your work, your wife, and fearing your Creator were the key lessons this man learned and penned in Ecclesiastes.  Thankfulness is intricately linked with wisdom.

What is Sapient?

I am glad you asked. 🙂  I had never really heard it either until I was researching for this post.  It means intelligent, discerning, or wise.  In Hebrews 5:14, God gives a definition of discernment.

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

A sapient person is able to distinguish good from evil.

Knowledge-Understanding-Wisdom

Wisdom is more than knowledge that is gained through experience or reasoning – there is nothing worse than a knowledgeable fool!  Dozens of passages and Scripture reveal how these three words are related:

  • Knowledge is retaining the raw material of information;
  • Understanding is the great separator; identifying what is true knowledge, targeting what is false knowledge, and most critical of all, untwisting and separating the true from the false in one lump of information;
  • Wisdom is the ability to take good information, filtered by understanding, and to act on that truth at the right time, to the right people, and with the right motivations and manner.  Fearing a righteous and loving God who is watching me every moment propels my commitment to act wisely (Proverbs 9:10).

Wisdom Includes Thankfulness

So hang on, I am going somewhere with this. 🙂  If our God puts a heavy emphasis on thankfulness, would we not also be wise in doing so?

Being th(i)nkful is a function of sapience or understanding. That my struggles are a result of God not knowing, or not caring about, or not loving me enough is false knowledge. Th(i)nkfulness celebrates true knowledge – that my struggles are ordained by God uniquely for me in order to bring about many “greater goods,” that He is with me, has given me grace, and has given me so many things around my struggle for which to be thankful.

Out of the 135 references in the BibleGood wisdom for thank, thanked, thanks, thanking, thankful, thankfulness, thanksgiving, thanksgivings, thank-worthy, 67 references came from the Old Testament and 68 from the New Testament.

 

Thankfulness is a very practical part of wisdom; it is good and right action that is based on discernment of true knowledge, and it scatters benefit in every direction:

  • Thankfulness is obedience to God
  • Thankfulness is part of worshipping God
  • Thankfulness gives credit to God and to others
  • Thankfulness honors God’s meticulous providence in every detail of our lives
  • Thankfulness uses learning to inspire still more learning
  • Thankfulness among nonbelievers is contagious and creates gospel opportunities
  • Thankfulness is the fruit of really deep and rich theology
  • Thankfulness repels our urges to sin
  • Thankfulness pushes us toward seeking forgiveness and reconciliation
  • Thankfulness builds inward peace
  • Thankfulness blurts out heaven’s perspective when ours is distorted
  • Thankfulness fosters mental health by searching for and focusing on the good
  • Thankfulness displays faith in God as we fulfill His will for us to give thanks in every circumstance
  • Thankfulness trains the brain’s neural pathways to keep looking for things to be thankful for
  • Thankfulness creates fresh air, motivating and inspiring others
  • Thankfulness is part of good leadership, highlighting the good in our challenges
  • Thankfulness sees the silver lining but also focuses on the benefit of clouds, rain, lightning and thunder

There is a pervasive emphasis throughout the scriptures on gratitude. Starting with Leviticus 7:11, where the thanksgiving sacrifice is given as one of the peace/fellowship offerings, and winding throughout the scriptures to Revelations 11:17, where twenty-four elders fall on their faces saying: “ We give thanks to You, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for You have taken your great power and begun to reign.”

The wise king from long ago learned some indispensable lessons.

Am I sapient? Am I discerning about the information, speculations, and meditations passing through my mind?  Do I act on the true knowledge I have?  Do I celebrate what is true with thankfulness?

Mount Tai Immortal Bridge

Being th(i)nkful is like a bridge that takes you from focusing on self to focusing on all that God is and has done ~ 

 

 

In Beauty and Brokenness

creativityCreativity:  relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to design or fashion something

Creative in Beauty

Our God is creative.

He created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Genesis 1:1, Hebrews 11:3).  In fact, several amazing angels shouted out that His creative glory fills the earth (Isaiah 6:3).  His handiwork is everywhere we look and even where we can’t see with our fanciest equipment, from galaxy clusters all the way down to sub-atomic particles.

When I am faced with these dazzling works, I am so impressed with Him and filled with gratitude.  His creativity is evidence of His existence – why is there so much beauty when the entire earth could be just gray mud and lukewarm water?  He even tests mankind’s limits putting His creativity in the Mariana Trench, in the stretches of the blistering Sahara, and under the ice in Antarctica.  He is boundless power, astonishing imagination, and extraordinary humor.

But it’s not just out there.  He intricately and wonderfully knitted me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-15). I get to breathe today – in Him I live and move and have my being, and He is not very far from any of us (Acts 17:27-28).  I am a unique masterpiece in His marvelous creation (Ephesians 2:10, NLT).

creativity 1What a great sorrow to Him if I am just “thankful for” and not “thankful to,” as though I could chalk all of this up to chance, or luck, or random mutation, or a cosmic hiccup.  No!  I must give the credit, the applause, the fame, and my sincerest thanks to this Creator.  It is all His work.

Creative in Brokenness

But…but…but, what about when things are not beautiful?  What about when Adam disobeyed and drew down heaven’s wrath into an enduring and horrendous curse on the entire earth?  What about fallen, broken, selfish and sin-twisted humanity?  What about when well-created things don’t work well anymore?  What about earthquakes, weather extremes, hunger, ignorance, illness, disease, and death?

Our Saviour knows all about that brokenness.  One day in Galilee He had been followed by at least 5000 people who were now hungry and far from home.  He asked his disciples to see what food they could collect to meet the need.  They came up with five barleycreativity 4 loaves and two small fish.  Their solution was broken, insufficient.

But notice.  Jesus didn’t complain about the lack, nor did He just immediately “poof” things into existence.  The Lord Jesus accepted what there was and then amazingly gave thanks (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14).

The miracle followed His offering up thanksgiving.  We might take note of the order – I will thank God for the way things are, for the small good things in my difficult situation, and leave it up to Him to change the way things are!  The prayer of thanks came before the physical provision was displayed.

Jesus did this same thing the night before He died on the cross for our sins.  And He took bread, the symbol of His body, and gave thanks (Luke 22:19).  He thanked the Father for the small bread knowing that God would soon break a much more significant “bread of life” for the sins of mankind.

You & Me & the Gospel

Our God’s finest creativity, beauty, and provision for our needs comes through this thing called “the gospel.”  It changes everything.

Zoom up 30,000 creativityfeet and get a big look at earth’s story – full of creativity and goodness, then full of sin and suffering, and then full of hope because God’s restorative creativity that’s just around the corner.

Jesus is the One God sent to enable this coming restoration – this is why He is called the Savior.

The restoration begins with me and you.  Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, and then died in our place, serving the judgment for our sins, so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  But Jesus didn’t just “open heaven’s door” for us to earn our way to heaven; His death paid for every one of our sins from the cradle to the grave which, when we truly believe, are cancelled all at once!

Beauty Created From Brokenness

It gets better.  When we believe, we are “born again;” we become one of God’s recreation projects for the rest of our lives, changing from the inside out into someone more like Jesus.  And when we die, our bodies will be changed into truly amazing and immortal bodies. And one day, not too far from now, the earth’s brokenness will be changed to shalom (wholeness).

Miracles begin with our thankfulness for the Bread.  Our personal restoration into what God wants begins by our thanking Him.  Thank Him … for Jesus suffering in our place … for the free gift of forgiveness … for the chance to be reconciled with the Creator … for His giving us a new heart … for the health and strength to live your life as a thank you to Him.

HOMEWORK: Actively search out God’s creative beauty outside.  Next, think of God’s provision for your needs.  Express it.  The answer God gives to your cry for help may hinge on you first expressing thanks to Him for things as they are.

Creativity 5.jpeg

“God must’ve had a blast. Painting the stripes on the zebra, hanging the stars in the sky, putting the gold in the sunset. What creativity! Stretching the neck of the giraffe, putting the flutter in the mockingbird’s wings, planting the giggle in the hyena. And then, as a finale to a brilliant performance, He made a human who had the unique honor to bear the stamp, ‘In His Image.’”

Max Lucado

 

The Bane of Anxiety

My Nemesis

If I had to pick one bane that I have struggled with throughout my life – one toxic, irritating, distressing, plaguing companion –  it would be worry.  I may try to dress it up and make it not look so ugly, but in reality my worry is actually glaring sinful pride that opposes God (I Peter 5:5b-7).  I think I know what is best.  I want to be in control.

Who is in Control?

This Christmas all of our family – children, spouses and grandchildren – were able to gather together in one place after 2 1/2 years.  This is a rare thing indeed as many of us live on different continents.meadowsix10

I was given a very precious, thoughtful gift from my children.  They recorded their voices reading some of my very favorite Scriptures.  A gift that I will relish for a very long time.  Listening through it, Matthew 6:27 caught my ear as I heard my son’s voice reading.

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”  Matthew 6:27

It is almost like we believe that if we are anxious about something, we can change it somehow.

Anxiety“a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome”

Battle For The Throne

gratitude throneI find that I want to be in control; I want my superior understanding of what is best, my keen sense of order, and my better set of values, to be on the throne.  It is difficult to trust that God has everything completely in control and is sovereign. And even if He is in control, He at times does things in a messy and hurtful way; there seems to be no order, purpose, or reason for an illness, an accident, or a financial reversal.  Thus, I indict my God and conclude that my way is better.

But God is worthy of my trust.  He is in control whether I acknowledge it or not, and His ways are always good, perfect, and right, though they are much higher than my ways – so high that I cannot see them or evaluate whether they are up to my standards (Isaiah 55:8-9).

What benefits, however, I would enjoy if I would embrace God’s perfect and good Providence and see my ever-changing circumstances through this lens instead of relentlessly gasping and grasping at evasive control.

Th(i)nkful and Anxiety

Our Creator knows that humans have a strong propensity towards worry.  Therefore, He has given us advice and commands on how to respond.  In the Matthew 6 passage Jesus tells us to seek the things which are above and other things will come right.  Another exhortation to combat anxiety comes from Paul in Philippians 4:4-7:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Here we are given the admonition of rejoicing in the Lord, remembering that He is near, thereby setting the foundation of being able to pour out our requests to God with prayer and supplication (supplication = asking God to supply), with thanksgiving. We must practice gratitude in our heartaches and challenges.

If you give thanks with your supplication, the Lord promises that a supernatural peace will guard your emotions and mind.  That is pretty cool!

Carefree vs. Careless

You may say that to be carefree, worry-free, seems to smack of not caring or having proper concern. Carefree is different from careless.  We truly care.  We care a lot, too much, and need to direct our care to the One Who cares for us and wants to carry our cares (Matthew 11:28-30). He knows that we struggle to control and He wants us to leave the control to Him and trust in His way.

Recently I have had the privilege of caring for three little ones while their mommy is going through some physical challenges.  anxietyIn reading to them I came across this book called Places You Haven’t See Yet: A Story About Learning to Trust God, SUCH good reading about what to do when you have anxiety.  Pray!!  We pour out our hearts to the Lord with thanksgiving.

The practice of thinking thanks in every situation is an antidote to worry.  One repulses the other.  One will win!  They cannot coexist.

P.S. I included a link to the children’s book in case anyone wanted to get it. 🙂

 

 

Choose to Think

How Many Thoughts Do You Have a Day?

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

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

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

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

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

So How Do You Spend Your 60 000?

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

I find that convicting and inspiring at the same time!

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

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

Retraining the Mind

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

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

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

A Th(i)nkful Journal

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

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

Example of Being Th(i)nkful

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

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

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

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

Th(i)nkful for ABCD

Not All Poverty Is Created Equal

We learned some great lessons last week in “community health evangelism” training (CHE). One principle we learned was that helping the needy in Majority (3rd) World countries can be divided in two categories:

  • One category is called Relief – stopping the bleeding in emergency situations such as after an earthquake, hurricane or tsunami where people are completely helpless and needing gifts of food, water, and healthcare just to survive. Think of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37.
  • ABCD8The second category is known as Development – helping the needy by working with them to improve their general living conditions, developing their skills, giving them a hand up and not a hand out. Think of Israel leaving part of the harvest for widows like Ruth in Deuteronomy 24:19-22.

This second category is what I want to highlight. A central part of development is refusing to answer every problem with outside money, and refusing to do for people what they can and should do for themselves.

What is ABCD?

In the world of development, ABCD – ABCD4Asset-Based Community Development – is helping a struggling community improve itself by sitting down with residents and inquiring about what they already have.😊 When Moses resisted getting involved with God’s plan, God asked him, “What is that in your hand?” (Exodus 4:2). That’s where we begin. We look at what is, not at what is missing.

“What skills, gifts, abilities, tools, supplies, and time do we already have here in our community?” At first, many reply “nothing,” and you might agree at times.  But as the moments go by, people start to mention things, and in time, you end up with a list.  The CHE team does this in “neighborhood surveys” and then brings people together to discover how their combined skills and abilities can begin to make changes.

Gratitude turns what we have into enough.

ABCD7This approach promotes a philosophy of thankfulness and a “can do” spirit.  In other words, a community looks to its own members to identify what assets are already present around them.

CHE teams share preventive health tips along with moral teaching and gospel truth.  Having a good and meaningful life is not just physical well-being, but also emotional, relational, spiritual, and financial health that only the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ can bring. Even an atheist said so!

How are ABCD and Th(i)nkful similar?

abcd.jpg

By focusing on assets, we search for things that perhaps we had overlooked before that we can think thanks for.  That is just what th(i)nkful is about – looking for things to think thanks about in every situation and expressing that thanks orally or in a written form.

God’s thanksgiving commands are not just for the rich and wealthy, but even for the majority of people in the world who are poor.  And it is humbling, tear-jerking, and convicting to watch someone with nothing discover that they have enough to help someone else.

Emotions are real but they are not reality, and a dose of th(i)nkfulness can turn a pity party into non-stop praise for God’s provision. Th(i)nkfulness focuses on what God has provided and sees His meticulous Providence in keeping us from what is missing.

I ASKED GOD

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything that I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.

Anonymous Civil War Soldier

 

Ministering Thoughtfully

The Power of Compassion

visiting-in-hospital-small-e1517239570647.jpg

Family Visit To Grandmother In The Hospital

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

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

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

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

― Theodore Roosevelt

How Do You Inspire Others

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Lessons from Having Received Ministry

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

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

 

Th(i)nkful in Shungnak, Alaska

Do you know where Shungnak, Alaska is?

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I did not.  I knew that it was very far north and that the pictures reminded me of Brumunddal, Norway, where I grew up.  I know where it is now.  Carl Boley writes a blog from his adventures these days as a first year teacher in Shungnak (he’s also on Facebook). He shares fascinating insights of how life functions in this remote Alaskan village that you can get to only by plane or sled.

His last two posts really caught my attention.  When the dark time settles in up in the very far north, it is easy for “emotional darkness” to reflect the physical conditions.  People really battle depression.  Alcoholism and suicides are common.  In Carl’s November 24 post, although the deep darkness and cold were still intensifying, he chose to list things that he was thankful for.  What a post!  He skillfully picked seven things for which he expressed gratitude.

Listing Things You are Thankful for

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After reading Carl’s post, I was so encouraged and challenged!  I could feel hope and warmth even though I know that circumstances are getting even more difficult – the high tomorrow is -28F!

This was such a good reminder.  My circumstances can have two reads: I can read the cold darkness and be as accurate as a thermometer, or I can choose to think thanks in the same situation, finding the warmth and light, and by finding it, magnifying it.

Although the simple, childlike activity of listing things I am thankful for doesn’t seem earth-shattering, it can actually shatter my earthly perspective and reveal God’s treasures amidst the ghostly shadows and acrid dust. The God who is sovereign in every detail of my situation has provided a way of escape for me to handle difficult things.  I can choose to think thanks, and then I can choose to express it to Him and to others.

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

 Check out Carl’s Blog at: Boley in the Bush Blog.

 

Pathway through the Woods

Brain Neural Pathwaywooded debris 1

Cultivating  th(i)nkfulness can be compared to carving a path through the woods.  It  seems overwhelming at first with debris and obstructions.  It takes great effort to remove fallen logs and roots.  You may need some tools like a spade and a chainsaw, or good sharp clippers.

Our brains are similar in that forging a new brain pattern or neural pathway in order to create a new life habit is daunting at first but gets easier with time. God has created our brains to be able to do this.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.

How Do I Do It?

The first practical step you do when beginning to carve a brain path, is to deliberately lay out a plan. Your goal is to have your thoughts automatically head towards what to think thanks about in any given situation. You begin to search in your thoughts for things that you can be thankful for.

If you are in an unusually happy situation, it’s not very hard to find things to be thankful for. Even in normal, day-to-day times it’s not hard to begin to discover th(i)nkful items.

However, when hard times come, the difficulty  level rises to delineate thankful items. Let me illustrate with this example from my friend Dawn:

“My heart was tempted to complain about the mounds of laundry today. The Holy Spirit reminded me, “Be thankful. Think thanks.”

So as I’m folding I start saying in my mind…
Thank You, God for these clothes.
Thank You for your provision of new and used hand-me-downs.
Thank You that they are clothes we got to choose and that we like them. 😊
Thank You for the little (and big) legs that move to make these pants dirty.
Thank You for the soap to wash them.
Thank You for the washing machine that washes and I don’t have to do it by hand.
Thank You for the tumble dryer that works in my basement, and that I don’t have to air dry them in the cold.
Thank You for the dryer that gets the wrinkles out so I don’t have to iron.
Thank You that I am able to be at home and squeeze this chore in between schooling.
Thank You for the energy and wellness to do this. I’m not sick in bed.
The list could go on…
Be th(i)nkful. Think thanks when you’re tempted to complain in your heart.

She chose to download grace and begin carving the neural brain pathway of thinking thanks about the situation.  She then expressed it.  Engaging in the discipline of being th(i)nkful ended up not only helping her mindset, but encouraging others to do likewise.

Patiently Conquer Step by Step

The habit of cultivatipath through woodsng thinking thanks takes time.  You have to see progress in little steps at a time.  Think about that path through the woods. As you step by step conquer the mess, soon the path becomes apparent.

In time you will be able to run that path.  How cool!!

This exercise is much more that just creating a better mindset for us.  Practicing th(i)nkfulness is an act of worship to our Redeemer who has given us a command.  Give thanks in all circumstances.  He knows that being grateful is a key to our sanctification and maturity in Him.

So… I just wanted to get you started this year on developing that brain pathway through the ‘woods.’

Who doesn’t enjoy a walk in the woods anyway?? 🙂

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Cutting Produces Thirst

Cutting the Christmas Tree

David and I just picked out our Christmas tree.  The fresh scent of Fraser fir filled our senses as we browsed through the trees available.  We finally settled on a lovely tree that looked full and balanced.

After we paid, the attendant cut off the lower branches to make it manageable to put into the Christmas tree stand, and he cut a fresh piece off the trunk.  The purpose of cutting the main trunk was to open up the pores and allow the tree to drink in a lot of water, thereby allowing it to stay fresher longer.cutting a fir tree 1

The pores had begun to close after the initial cut a while back when it was brought from the farm in North Carolina. Without water, those exposed fibers were dead now. The trunk needed a fresh cut to open those pores again and satiate the thirst of the poor thing. This cut was for the good of the tree, to enable it to fulfill its purpose well. Now the tree could stay hydrated longer to keep its needles, and grace a family’s living room.

A Fresh Cut Will Make Me Thirsty

I thought about how this compares with our lives.  Our spiritual “pores” will often close or grow calloused over time; I don’t feel the need for God, and I don’t talk with Him, like ever.  It is when I receive a fresh “cut” – the pang of a trial – that the pores are wide open and thirsty again. My life is a Psalm again – crying out to the Lord and taking hope and courage in my Rock, my Fortress, and my Deliverer.

Familiarity and sameness is lovely and predictable, but they can make me grow apathetic.  I especially am a person that loves to cling to schedule and expectations.  I have found over time though, that what I need to cling to is the Lord and rest in His values and expectations, His schedule.  He often will allow a fresh cut to make me more thirsty for Him and not get too comfortable in my routine in this world.

When I have developed the habit of being th(i)nkful, there is a coping mechanism that is engaged when the cut happens. I know what to do. I begin to draw up the character and purposes of the Water of Life, and brainstorm things that I can think thanks about in the difficult situation.  Stress, anger, fear, or sadness may try to get me off track, but if I download the grace the Lord offers, and engage my thoughts to think thanks and express that thanks, there is a peace that begins to flow.

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Let the fresh cuts of the Lord in your life open you wide to drink deeply from the One who offers living water that satisfies your soul.

“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes”
Psalm 119:71