Regarding Home

The Problem with “Home”

Screen Shot 2019-07-13 at 10.11.09 AMMy life in the will of God right now is a bit crazy. We have two “homes” – an apartment in Amanzimtoti, South Africa, and a mission-owned house in Atlanta to which we return twice a year while we train new missionaries.  It is bizarre to leave home … to go back home!

There are three key elements that help me feel at home: the presence of my husband, music that we play in the house, and a Yankee Candle called Home Sweet Home.  We light this candle, its fragrance fills the place, and my nose tells me I am home.

When God’s Word Finds A Home

My mind and heart are also homes, and many things live in them; some residents bring peace and others cause conflict. This morning I was meditating on Colossians 3, and came to verse 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.”

a blog on the bibleThe Apostle Paul writes that the message about Jesus should be at home in us profusely, filling every room, like that Yankee Candle.  His Word should fill and flavor our thinking, influencing what we want, what we mediate on, and eventually what we say and do.

As we are changed, we end up sharing this potpourri of the soul with each other, exchanging insights, singing deep truths captured in new songs and golden oldies, with heart-compelled thankfulness to the Lord. In True Spirituality, Francis Schaeffer wrote:

“A quiet disposition and a heart giving thanks at any given moment is the real test of the extent to which we love God at that moment.”

Can God’s Mission Be Home?

I want you to know that home can be somewhere else from where you have always known it to be. Because of the great love of our Savior, we can choose to make home where He wants us to go. Yes, it may feel a bit awkward at first, and that we somehow are turning our back on our incredibly loved extended family members, but God pours out grace for us to create home in a new place, embrace His will and, in time, even love it.

a blog on BMW

David and I are presently in the midst of helping out with missionary training at our mission headquarters outside of Atlanta, GA.Our days are full of serving in different capacities from teaching, counseling new and older missionaries, helping with the youth sessions, serving in the nursery, recording videos for the mission … and the list goes on.

There are so many conversations with people getting ready to take their “home” around the world. At times, I feel I get a little glimpse of just how important these days are to our Savior, the Lord Jesus.

As an MK (missionary kid) I am very aware of the costs of missionary life. My family first crossed the Atlantic by boat to make a home in Norway in 1964, when I was 4 years old.  Since then we have always taken flights. 🙂a blogpost about oceanliners

David and I took our four children and made a home in South Africa over twenty years ago. In the group currently going through missionary training here at HQ, there are three people headed for South Africa, all aware of the coming cost of serving cross-culturally.

The idiom “Home is where the heart is” actually means one’s home is made up of the places and people one loves or cherishes most. As we grow to love and cherish our Lord God, we can find home anywhere He chooses for us to be, but in reality and in the long haul, heaven is our home.

I hate to break it to you, but your life will be over soon. Live in such a manner that when you finish, you will be filled with thankfulness and not regrets.Muizenberg Beach huts, South Africa edit #2

What Are You Wearing?

Your Character As Clothing

If your heart characteristics, and your corresponding behavior, could be visualized as clothing, what would your wardrobe look like?aa blog on put off: put on 2

Your suit of stateliness might be hanging there, or your mood-swing blouse with alternating black and white stripes.  The tie-dyed t-shirt of trouble-free unpredictability or your sweatsuit of steadfastness might be folded there on the shelf.  Do you still have that flannel shirt of forgiveness? And where is that cardigan of kindness that you used to wear all the time?

You Can’t Wear Everything At Once

There you stand wearing a winter coat. Oddly, now you try to put on a jacket over top of the coat.  It doesn’t work.  It is way too tight.  You don’t look normal, and you couldn’t act normally throughout your day.  There is a simple point: you don’t wear everything at once. You make a choice each day as to what you will put on.  And when there is a drastic change (cold to hot, office to sport, carpentry to surgery), you put off one set of clothes to put on another set that corresponds to the new demands of the day.

The visual of putting off and putting on clothing is a theme repeated throughout the Bible (Job 29:14; Psalm 132:9; Isaiah 61:3,10; 64:6; Zechariah 3:4; Revelation 19:13).

“The figure of changing clothes is, in good Hebrew tradition, an appeal to make an inward and spiritual change.” – Alan F. Johnson

The Replacement Principle – Put Off, Then Put On

aa-blog-on-put-off-put-on-1.jpgThe Apostle Paul used this wardrobe principle in “the twin epistles” – Ephesians and Colossians.  If you are following Jesus, “put off your old self … be renewed in the spirit of your minds … and put on the new self….” 

But in Colossians 3:5-17, Paul repeatedly stresses this change of clothing.  Your old “you” (enslaved to the power of Sin) died with Christ. Now, when you obey the internal impulses of Sin by committing sins, you make a fool of yourself.  You’re a child of the King! Why are you wearing those stinky old rags!?

  • Put to death [the list of sins] – v. 5
  • Put them all away [and another list of sins] – v. 8
  • You have put off the old self – v. 9

  • Put on the new self – v. 10
  • Put on [virtues that are listed] – v. 12
  • Put on love, which ties everything together – v. 14

At the end of this put-off-put-on passage, Paul gives us a hint at the importance of the garment of thankfulness – he mentions it three times in three verses.  This is the only such passage in the entire Bible.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  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.  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

Time To Go Searching or Shopping?

wardrobeHow often do you put on gratitude? Do you know where it is in your closet? Do you even own the garment?  You might need to go shopping.

But owning the garment is not enough. Thankfulness doesn’t just automatically spring from the closet and cling to your body in the morning.  You have to put on gratitude.  And in order for it to fit properly, you must first put off the musty coat of ingratitude.  So often, you think that life stinks, when actually it’s just your old coat.

So, aside from this garment metaphor, how do you actually change? The key lies in Ephesians 4:23 and Colossians 3:10: “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds.”

The New You and the New Clothes

The power of Sin used your bodily impulses to force you to commit “sins.” It also messed with your mind pushing you to control your world and everyone in it for your own happiness.  And the world was never fully right, so you were seldom truly happy, focused on the shortcomings of life rather than all that was amazing and good.

Then Jesus came.  Jesus put off the enjoyment of His glory so that He could put on our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21) – how’s THAT for a garment switch! – and then He sent His Spirit to help transform believers.  Your old self died when you believed in Christ (Romans 6:6, Colossians 3:3), and the new “you” was born.

Your old reasoning and old habits are your old clothes. You start out your Christian life with them, but they don’t belong in the wardrobe of the redeemed, so throughout your life, you are discovering and throwing away the old and replacing them with new reasoning and new habits.

Th(i)nkful – The All Weather Coat

aa blog on put off: put on 4Romans 12:2 says we are transformed by renewing the mind – learning to think God’s thoughts.  Life isn’t about me; it’s about God.  He is not my genie; I am His servant.  Earth is the unbeliever’s only heaven, and the believer’s only hell.  Hard times aren’t a disaster; God designs them to refine, strengthen, and improve me as an image-bearer of the Creator.

And knowing His lovingkindness, His meticulous care for me, His rock-solid promises, His infinite mind, His unchallengeable sovereignty, and my redeemed pathway, there is so very much to be thankful for.

There! I just bought a new golden jacket called “thinkful,” put my arms into the sleeves, and wow does it feel amazing!  This is a keeper.  I think this might be my favorite coat ever.

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 

Paul Giving Thanks

Our Brother Paul

Welcome to a gathering of the Church in Aquila and Prisca’s home.a blogpost on Paul's thankfulness to believers

We are excited to hear from our brother Paul as he is here and going to share about his recent journeys.  We are tantalized by the odors coming from the baking
a post on brother Paulkhubz (Jewish pita bread) that we will enjoy after the teaching and sharing time. 

I look around the group of believers gathered in my imagination, and am filled with gratitude to God for their courage and love for the Messiah.  Many of them have suffered greatly for their faith.  Many know of some that have given in and burnt the worship incense to the Roman gods. Some from this group have been martyred, finishing their earthly journey.

As we listen to our brother share, it is interesting to notice that Paul uses the words for gratitude ~thanks, thank, thanksgiving, thanksgivings, thankful, thanked~ 49 times in his letters. He valued gratitude.

Take the Resurrection Chapter of I Corinthians 15 where Paul shows that without the Lord Jesus rising from the dead, we are of all men most miserable. Here, Paul gives thanks to God who gives us the victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 15:57). Or how about Romans 7:25 where Paul has been describing the struggle over who will deliver us from this body of death and cries out the solution: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Expressing Thanks

Paul was thankful for people, and told them so.  He was careful to express his thanks to God for these individuals and clusters of believers in the letters he wrote:

  • Romans 1:8 – First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
  • I Corinthians 1:4 – I always thank my God for you because of the grace He has given you in Christ Jesus.
  • Ephesians 1:16 – I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers
  • Philippians 1:3 – I thank my God every time I remember you.
  • Colossians 1:3 – We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:2 – We always thank God for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers
  • Thessalonians 1:3 – We are obligated to thank God for you all the time, brothers, as is fitting, because your faith is growing more and more, and your love for one another is increasing.
  • Philemon 1:4 – I always thank my God, making mention of you in my prayers

He showed by example how we are to not only think the thanks, but also express the thanks – first to God and then to other people.

Am I Th(i)nkful Like Paul?

a post about brother Paul 1.jpg

Not so sure how I am doing on this issue.  I need to be more intentional.  I want to think and express my thanks to God first, and then to others for their faithful walk in the Lord.  What an encouragement it is to remember the godly examples of others who have gone before us or even others walking life right beside us here and now.  Paul’s example is a guide.

Paul’s Prayer for the Colossians

a post about brother paul 3.jpg

Way back in 2010 our family got together in a cabin in PA. Our youngest daughter had not even started university yet.  We were meeting ‘significant others’ and the grand-babies were starting to arrive.

The Sunday morning that we were there, we studied together one of Paul’s prayers.  A few months earlier David had gotten all the guys to volunteer to give a talk about a portion of Colossians 1:9-14. They each taught us a piece of this important prayer that Paul offered up for the believers at Colossae. That is a very precious memory to me.

Here is Colossians 1:9-14:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Paul is challenging the readers by sharing his prayer for them. He is praying for their maturity and growth in the Lord, and for fruitfulness and long-suffering. He ends by praying for them to give thanks to the Father who has delivered them and qualified them for an amazing inheritance.

Thanks, Brother Paul

So as we leave Aquila’s home in our imagination and head out into the world, whether it be Africa, Asia, Europe, America, Australia, or New Zealand … or wherever you go, let’s follow Paul’s admonition.  Let’s think thanks and give thanks to our Father first, and then be a bit more intentional in expressing our thanks to others for who they are and what they’ve done. a blogpost on Paul's thankfulness to believers

Who comes to mind that you give thanks to God for in your life? What about them are you thankful for?

Have you shared that with them lately?

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.

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“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.

Ngiyabonga

“Thanks” in Zulu is Ngiyabonga

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

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

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

Thankfulness is Universal and Uplifting

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

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

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

Being th(i)nkful is uplifting!

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My Th(i)nkful List.  What Is Yours?

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

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

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