Doing Th(i)nkful

A Shocking Hypothetical

The first “Th(i)nkful” Seminar ever was on October 18, 2015, in North Wilkesboro, NC, where my dear friend, Joanna Chapmon, hosted a ladies’ afternoon.  I explained and illustrated the skill and benefits of thinking thanks.

Then came the closing exercise.  “Each of you has just been diagnosed with third stage cancer. Now, write down on your 3×5 card three things that you’re thankful for in this difficult situation.” Stunned looks turned to thoughtful stares and slowly they began to write. A few minutes later, we were all blessed by the myriad insights the ladies had in response to this hypothetical difficulty.

 

Th(i)nkful in Action

Now, let me introduce you to Nancy. aa Nancy Krick She and her husband are walking through a valley of challenge as her husband Mike deals with 4th stage pancreatic cancer.  Nancy is an RN working for the Carolina Center for Behavioral Health.

Since they have been our friends for decades, we prayed when the diagnosis came; we prayed through the treatments; we prayed through the good news; we prayed through the bad news.

Recently, when Mike went through a difficult day of surgery, we prayed again.  The next morning I woke to read this Facebook post by Nancy:

Thank you Lord for the blessings of this difficult day.
1. The cadre of believers that surrounded me to carry the load and distract me during surgery
2. The folks that brought me bags of snacks
3. The folks that brought me drinks, change for the vending machine and gave of their precious time to encourage me with their presence.
4. Our surgical oncologist Dr. Nguyen who is immensely skilled and so very kind and compassionate.
5. The friends that wanted to come visit and weren’t offended when we ask them to visit us another day.
6. Michael’s OB/GYN who stopped by twice today to check on him ( if you want to know ask)
7. Our sweet nurse Lisa who did everything she could to help Michael be as comfortable and well taken care of as possible. We are thankful she will be his nurse tomorrow too. And NO she WAS NOT PLAYING CARDS!!!
8. So very, very, thankful for our Pastor Mike Hamlet who was with us at 6:30AM during check in and pre-op and then came back this afternoon because we were struggling and needed his comfort and prayers.
9. For all of you reading this who prayed before, during, and after the surgery. We thank God for you. You have lightened our burden and we are so grateful for you!
10. Karin Brown, we are thinkful.❣

aablog-on-nancy-k..jpgNancy is wisely putting into action being thankful in all circumstances. She is carving the brain neural pathway of looking for things to think thanks about and expressing them.

So, I’m praising God and giving a shout-out to Nancy, saying “well done!”  I feel Nancy is miles ahead of me in implementing thankfulness.  I know it’s so hard for her, and yet she is choosing to download the grace to winnow through the glass chards of broken hopes to think gratitude. She can do this with confidence because God is trustworthy and sovereign.

Doer of the Word

Are you actively practicing being th(i)nkful – giving thanks in all things? Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  He spoke with authority; the people were astonished.  Jesus ended his talk by using a powerful seaside contrast between the wise man and the foolish man. Remember singing about this as a kid?

The wise man and the foolish had both heard the same messenger and the same message in the same presentation. One acknowledged, but the other implemented.  The former felt that he knew better and shaped his life accordingly.  It was all great until the storm. The wise man’s house stood on boring rock, back from the edge … and did just fine in the storm.

Be careful of the deception that James wrote about … thinking that because we hear something we really own it (James 1:22). To know you should be giving thanks is not the same as doing it. How can you and your family create a habit of being th(i)nkful?

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

 

Envelop Thanks

Envelop?

The scent was faint at first, but slowly the delicious smell grew stronger as the Swedish Tea Ring was baking in the kitchen. The tantalizing odor enveloped me as I studied in the next room.

Have you ever used the verb envelop?

Envelop: to wrap around something completely; to surround, either literally or figuratively

Literally, fog can envelop a city, or a mom can envelop her child. Figuratively, peace can envelop your mind, or Christ can envelop your life. In fact, the Apostle Paul’s use of “in Christ” and “in the Spirit” has this idea of enveloping a person totally.

Envelop Your Prayers

Thankfulness should wrap around our prayers completely.  When I come to God with my circumstances or with people that I am lifting up to Him, I am giving Him no new information – He knows and has ordained what is happening.  In reality, I can bring Him two things: thankfulness for the situation or person, and a petition for His help. To truly envelop a prayer with thanksgiving, you start with it and end with it.

This is the key difference between praying to a sovereign God and asking favors from the genie of the lamp. Many Christians treat God like a genie: “Please do this, and do that, and when you’re done, I need this as well.”  There is no recognition that the genie has caused our circumstances for His glory and our good, and we don’t say thanks because the genie is our servant.  It is said that if we treat our friends like we treat our God we wouldn’t have friends. To say thanks is to fully acknowledge that He is in control and is working out a perfectly calculated plan.

So, we should begin and end our prayer with thankfulness. Paul gives us multiple examples of praying with thanksgiving.

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2

“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

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Paul also demonstrates how he envelops his prayers with thankfulness when praying for people.

  • First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world (Romans 1:8)
  • I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus (I Corinthians 1:4)
  • I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers (Ephesians 1:16)
  • We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you (Colossians 1:3)
  • We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers (I Thessalonians 1:2)
  • We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing (2 Thessalonians 1:3)
  • First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people (I Timothy 2:1)
  • I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers (Philemon 1:4)

Trust Foundation

One key to praying thankfully is having the “foundation of trust” in good shape. I am currently working through Ole Hallesby’s book on Prayer and he writes:

“We realize that this deficiency in our prayer life is really due to the fact that we do not trust our blessed Lord. We think that we understand better than He does when and how our prayers should be answered.”

In order to envelop thanksgiving into our prayers, we have to trust the Lord God with all our mind, soul, and heart. He is completely trustworthy. On that basis I can be th(i)nkful and agree to receive what He is doing in my circumstances, though I don’t understand the whys and what fors, and may never understand them.

Th(i)nkful for Carmen

Her life is not easy.  She has difficulties that many of us are not familiar with. Carmen Praying 1But our friend Carmen loves God and runs to Him in prayer, with thankfulness.

This precious lady in Pennsylvania is a prayer warrior for us and the mission work here in South Africa. She thanks God on our behalf and provides prayer cover for us continually.

She is growing spiritually and envelops her prayers to the Lord with thinking thanks. And I reciprocate, thanking my Lord for her as I lift my prayer to Him.

So How Do You Start?

The beauty of being th(i)nkful is that it is not hard. Even if you have not been in the habit of enveloping your requests to God with th(i)nkfulness, just start with one thing. Here are some examples:

  • Thank You, God, for the people who pray for me
  • Thank you, God, for the opportunity to trust you and your character today
  • Thank you, God, that I am not alone in my struggles, but I can come to you
  • Thank you for the access and freedom I have, through Jesus, to come boldly to the throne of grace
  • Thank you for the grace that is helping me start a new neural pathway of thinking thanks
  • Thank you for the person that shared the good news of hope with me

Why not start right now in enveloping a prayer to God with thankfulness?

Th(i)nkful for Dr.Mandy

For What Are You Th(i)nkful Today?

Every Monday there are “Th(i)nkful Lists” being sent between South Africa and the USA. I have a dear friend who has asked that we keep each other accountable in being th(i)nkful.  Every Monday, we exchange our new lists. It has been such a blessing to me.  I love looking back on our texts and seeing precious gifts that God has given us … from something small like a ray of sunshine to the answer of a huge prayer request. It is good to give thanks!

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.

Dr. Mandy

In the spirit of being th(i)nkful, let me introduce you to Dr. Mandy.  She is a wife and mother and a believing medical doctor. She grew up in Joburg, but has lived for some time down here on the coast near Durban. Her husband blog on Dr. Mandy 1Marc and their daughter are her joys. She has a strong love for the hurting; that does not mean just humans, but also animals of all kinds. 🙂 She struggles to see someone in pain and works so hard as a doctor to help.

When David and I, and our Nick and Elly, moved to the south of Johannesburg in 2005 to help plant MountainView Bible Church, we got to know Dr. Mandy.  She was an early member of the church-plant there. We grew to love her and she became our doctor when we needed medical care.a blog on Dr. Mandy 2

We went on a relief mission to Zimbabwe together during the cholera outbreak, and she came with us to the African informal settlements when few whites would.  We were sad to see her and the family move to Durban – a 7-hour drive away – when Marc got a job transfer in 2012, but we entrusted them to the Lord.

God’s Kind Fingerprints

When God called David and me back to South Africa in 2017, one of the kind fingerprints of the Lord was that Dr. Mandy and her family were members of the church that was to be our base here in South Africa.

We arrived last September, and from the beginning of our stay here, though we are also good friends, we needed Dr. Mandy’s medical help through some new medical issues. David got tick-bite fever and Dr. Mandy got him on an antibiotic right away.  For almost a decade, Dr. Mandy has been my advocate and friend helping me navigate my struggle with my lungs.

It Is Good to Acknowledge

Paul in the N.T. often gave a greeting to someone in his letters and said that he was thankful to God for them.  I want to follow that example and thank the Lord for His kindness in allowing Dr. Mandy to be here close to where we are working. Medical problems are often one of the main reasons that missionaries leave the field.  Having Dr. Mandy nearby has definitely helped me to thrive here on the field.

I give thanks.

Your Th(i)nkful Person

blog on Dr. Mandy

I wonder if there is a person in your life like that? It may not be your doctor, but maybe it is a neighbor or a sister, a co-worker, or friend at church? Have you communicated your thankfulness to God and to them?  God gives us so many gifts every single day.  They are all around us and we must train our eyes to recognize them and acknowledge.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to your name, O Most High

Psalm 92:1

Th(i)nkful for OMO

Brumunddal, Norway

I grew up in the village of Brumunddal, Norway.  OMO BrumunddalI moved there when I was four years old.  I have so many fond memories of that little town, two and a half hours north of Oslo. That is where I learned to speak Norwegian.  That is where I began to attend the primary school known as Fagerlund Skole.  I had the most amazing teacher, Fru Mørland.

Deep Memories of Washing Powder

One of the memories that stands out to me from that time is that when my Momma would do the laundry, she would use OMO. OMO 1 No big deal really, it is just the laundry detergent that she used. The look of the box stuck with me.

It was very cold in the wintertime in Norway.  Mom would do the laundry downstairs and hang it up to dry in the “fyr-rommet” (furnace room) since it was dry and warm there.  We had no dryer.

OMO in South Africa

When David and I with our four children moved to Johannesburg, South Africa in 1995 to work in a church-plant, I noticed in the shops that they had OMO!!!!!  Wow!  That was like so cool.  I recognized the box and memories flooded my mind of Mom using that laundry soap.  You may say, who cares?  Well, I did.  With everything all around me being so new, the little box of washing powder helped me.  It gave a connection.  It was a gift from the Lord.

Searching for Simple Gifts

Thinking thanks in your life makes you look for “gifts.”  We are so battered by the tyranny of the urgent, our focus yanked to and fro by a thousand happenings – at home, at the office, at school, in the news, at the doctor’s, in the weather, on social media – that we don’t stop to look at any one thing, to ponder its virtue, to formulate thankfulness, and to express it.  That’s the essence of being th(i)nkful – we must stop and think first, focusing on even a simple thing that we can be th(i)nkful for.  These little joys are all around us, but we need the heart and the eyes to recognize them.

A friend of mine, Pastor Dick Hester, recently wrote:

“Let your heart be like a magnet, sweeping over our days, collecting reasons for gratitude. ‘Thank You, God!’  Our lungs inhale and exhale; our eyes read these words; our hearts beat regularly; our brain works; I put peanut butter and jelly on my bagel this morning. The sun reminds us of God’s love; some men and women don’t cheat on their mates; kids decide not to be disobedient to their parents. ‘Thank You, Lord!’ Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. “Thank You, Lord” acknowledges not only the good gifts, but the Good Giver. Gratitude helps to burn off my dross and anxiety.

I wonder what gifts you have discovered today?

  • Maybe it is realizing that the headache you had yesterday is gone.
  • It may be a text you receive from a loved one.
  • It may not be recognizing an OMO box from your childhood, but maybe it is sensing the supernatural peace from Philippians 4:7 after you have prayed for every concern with supplication and thanksgiving.
  • It may be strength to “power through” a hard challenge facing you.
  • It may be the privilege of eating good food that satisfies your body.
  • It may be a portion of Scripture that fits perfectly for what you need.
  • It may be attending a funeral that helps you realize how fleeting this life truly is and that you need to live accordingly.

I’ll conclude with some words recently written by my friend, Nicole DeFord, illustrating the virtue of finding God’s simple gifts:

There’s just something about looking out a window and seeing sunlight filtered through the raindrops clinging to the panes. OMO NDEverything can be an absolute mess all around you, but when you let yourself get pulled into that moment and the beauty in such a small thing … you can breathe. In such moments, I am always reminded that God gives opportunity for us to stop and appreciate Him and everything He’s given us ALL THE TIME … it’s up to us to take those opportunities, catch those little breathers, be amazed at the world around us, and be thankful for what we have. #thinkful #hygge #canon6d #itsthelittlethings #rainyday

Th(i)nkful in the Gauntlet

What is a Gauntlet?

A gauntlet is an intimidating, frightening, and sometimes dangerous set of tests that must be endured or gone through in order to reach a desired place or an end goal.  

Remember in the movie, “First Knight,” IMG-7223how Lancelot willingly volunteered to run the gauntlet? There were blades, spikes, swords, bludgeons, paddles, and heavy balls whirling about him at different speeds, and from different directions.

He had to have excellent timing to avoid the sharp blades and dexterity to slip between the huge obstacles.  Those watching were holding their breath because the odds were not good that he would make it to the end unharmed.  But he did. 🙂

Perhaps you are in a gauntlet of sorts right now.  Life is full of challenging storms, warped pavement, intimidating obstacles, repetitious hurdles, and bends in the road through which God is trying to move us toward a closer relationship of trust with Him.

Our Gauntlet

David and I have our own gauntlet that we are running.  We are headed back to the mission field this evening.  Our plane leaves Atlanta 41968135_10160844145675273_4747634137211338752_naround 10 pm and we arrive in Amanzimtoti, South Africa, on Thursday morning, Lord willing.  These past few months we have been so busy preparing and packing … and today we go.

As we head out on this third missionary journey, I have been eager to embrace staying th(i)nkful right in the process.

Yes, there are times when I have cried so hard because we will be further away from our kids and grandchildren.  And the upcoming test of learning Zulu is daunting to me.  But putting feet to the th(i)nkful idea has brought such joy and peace.

Keeping Steady

There’s something that I do when I go through hard times that the Lord has encouraged me with.  I seek for a Bible verse to be an anchor for my soul that I can memorize and feed on.  Often I am able to come up with a little tune for the verse, and I sing it as I hurry about to accomplish the tasks and challenges before me. That little tune runs with me and inspires me to keep my thoughts where they ought to be…on Him.

Psalm 73:28 is my Zululand anchor.

“But it is good for me to draw near to God, I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all your works.”

Last evening, we had a final visit with our precious son and his family.  After enjoying pizza together we went up to the children’s bedroom and sat around singing songs and praying together.  We sang my little Psalm 73:28 chorus with Nicolas easily picking up the guitar chords.  What an indelible memory and gift that was for me as we leave.  I am so incredibly blessed!

My th(i)nkful list:

  • God never leaves me nor forsakes me; He is equally present on the other side of the earth
  • This life is a vapor; heaven is not now, but it’s coming (gauntlets don’t last forever)
  • My husband loves to serve the Lord and is eager to push himself out of his comfort zone to learn a new language and serve new people
  • We have an incredible prayer support team.  They are “holding the ropes” for us
  • Going through this packing process has simplified my life; it feels so good to not have so much stuff
  • Josh and Celeste and their children Face-timed us this morning to say goodbye and tell us that they are praying for us
  • My Dad is so proud of us and promises to pray often
  • Dan and Deb Willoughby are receiving us into their own home a few days on the field to let us get our feet
  • Justin and Stephanie and precious boys came down the weekend before to just be together
  • Pastor Chris, Joe, Greg, Mac, Doug, Dr. Miles, and Steve laid hands on us and prayed over us on Sunday, with an entire congregation surrounding us as they sent us out
  • Psalm 73:28
  • I am not coughing
  • I don’t have a headache
  • Jonny and Elly in China are following our journey
  • We get to bring our pillows and our soft duvet
  • Julia wanted me to teach her hand-quilting last night before I left
  • The Indian Ocean is beautiful and magnificent and we will be very close
  • We have an incredible hope in Jesus and His work on the cross

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

 

 

 

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

 

Th(i)nkful Tree

My Friend’s Th(i)nkful Tree

IMG_E4933

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

In this post I want to share what she did.

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

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

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

What Do You Do to Promote Gratitude?

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

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

 

 

 

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.

oops 5

 

“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?

Alaska2

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

Alaska 12

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.

 

Th(i)nkful for Mary’s Worship

Gratitude and worship are closely connected.  We worship God by thinking and expressing our thanks. He is the recipient of our wrapped up gifts of thanks.

Today, I want to focus on being th(i)nkful to God for people, not just things. It is easy to focus on being thankful for health or comforts or gifts or recent events that brought joy, but people are more important than things. For one, people will live somewhere forever; events will fade from memory and the things we can see will all burn one day. Let’s focus on thanking God for the people who have affected us.

One of my favorite people in the Bible is Mary of Bethany.  In the three settings we find her, there is much to learn, but my favorite is when she pours out the precious perfume on the Lord Jesus a few days before He was to die on the cross. There are three truths that stand out to me in the way she gratefully worships.

Mary Gave Extravagantly

Mary of Bethany gave an extraordinary gift to Jesus in Mark 14:3. She brokIMG_3193e an alabaster box filled with precious spikenard perfume and poured the ointment on Jesus. Jesus was visiting Bethany six days before his crucifixion and had been invited to a meal at Simon’s house. Resurrected Lazarus was seated at the table, and Martha was serving.  Mary took a costly treasure, worth a person’s yearly wage (about $50,000.00 today), and poured it out on Jesus.  Her act was taken by Jesus as preparation for His upcoming burial (Mark 14:8). John tells us the house was filled with the odor of the ointment (John 12:3). Imagine spending $50,000 for something that would disappear in a few minutes! She was obviously convinced of who Jesus really was, and must have strongly sensed that his death was close.

Mary Grabbed an Opportunity

Mary with her siblings, Martha and Lazarus, were friends of Jesus.  John 11:5 records that Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.  He had visited their home earlier and taught lessons about choosing the “better part” of sittingMary of Bethany 3 and listening at His feet (Luke 10:18-42).  He had also come to them in Bethany four days after Lazarus had died and raised him from the dead (John 11).  Now, He was again with them in Bethany, and Mary grabbed the opportunity of worshipping Him with probably her greatest treasure, the alabaster flask containing costly spikenard perfume. She didn’t hold back.  She poured out her treasure on her even greater Treasure, the Lord Jesus, in preparation for his death and burial.  She knew from experience that He had the power to raise people from the dead.  Although she may not have known all the details of how Christ would die and rise again, her faith, garbed with devotion, was strong and committed.

Mary Was Given Honor

Mary’s act was shamed and ridiculed by people around her.  They were indignant about the supposed waste that she had done – so expensive, no special event, and now it was all just gone.  Jesus defends her.  I love this part.  He accepts her work of worship and commends her to the point of saying that wherever the gospel is preached throughout the whole world, this story will be mentioned as a memorial to her. I am doing that right here in 2017.  Mary’s act of costly worship is an intense example for us and she was given honor for her act.

So How Does That Affect Me

What would be my extravagant gift of worship that I could pour out on my Savior?

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Do I take advantage of opportunities for sacrifice or expressing my thanks as I move through my day? Am I feverishly gathering the wood, hay, and stubble of the here and now, or am I giving up current enjoyments to invest in gold, silver, and precious stones for the crowning day of my King, the Lord Jesus?

judgment fireI Corinthians 3:12-14 states that at the Evaluation Seat of Christ all our works will be tested by fire.  We’re not sure how our works will materialize into fuel nor what this fire will look like, but we are left to ponder the “burn-down factor” – what are we doing here and how that will survive the fire? Jesus said we can actually “lay up treasure in heaven” – pass our time, energies, and finances through an unseen membrane out of this life and into heaven.

I am certainly th(i)nkful for the hope I have in Jesus.  Because He came and died, and rose again, I have been reconciled to God. I can completely rely on Jesus’ promise in John 3:16 – if I believe in Him, I will not perish.

BUT, then there is also the issue of what I am doing with my life.  I do wonder if, when I get to the great Evaluation Seat, I will wish that I had lived my life differently, taken more risks, given more extravagantly, and walked away from more comforts for the cause of the gospel.  Am I entranced by time, or do I have eternity stamped on the back of my eyelids?

As you cultivate the thinking of thanks this week, who is a person, living or dead, that you admire and for whom you are thankful to God?  I would love to hear who and why.

Mary 1

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.  And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”  Mark 14:8-9