Navigating Anxious Thoughts

Whoa!! Didn’t Expect That One

She put the phone down, shock slowly creeping through her.

“Did not have a clue that this challenge was on its way,” she mused to herself.

“So how does God want me to to navigate this situation? How can I process these uncomfortable moments in a way that would be pleasing to Him?”

As the temptation to worry seeps in, we can have an emergency plan in place. We can practice for the upcoming “bend in the road” just like someone practices for an upcoming game.

1. The Replacement Principle – Matthew 6:25

Jesus gives some guidance when it comes to anxiety.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about the body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Matthew 6:25

Interesting to note that He says don’t be anxious about your life. In the verses to follow He reminds us that we cannot add one hour to our lifespan. God cares for us as He does for the birds of the air and the beautiful grass of the field. He states that the Gentiles (unbelievers) are seeking after, and continually anxious about, those things.

In contrast He says to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness! That’s the cure for anxious thoughts that Jesus gives us!! Outward and upward focus! “What can I do for His Kingdom today? Who can I serve? Who can I encourage? Who can I share the gospel with? Who can I pray for other than myself and my problems?”

As believers, we are different in that we have a Heavenly Father that is looking out for us. He knows our needs and lacks no power to supply them … in His time … and in His way. He can also clearly distinguish our needs from our wants – often our fretting is about our wants. As a friend mentioned, “Most of the time, we have rich people problems. If we lived in the 3rd world with next to nothing, we would have none of these problems. We have problems because we have too much … and expect to keep it all.”

The anxiety battle is won firstly through the “replacement principle.” We can’t resist anxious thoughts by simply trying to not think anything. There are some men who claim they are thinking about “nothing,” but the mind is always processing or mulling over something. So, I must replace my anxious thoughts with some kind of active planning or pursuing whatever is good for the Kingdom.

2. The Stoking Principle – Philippians 4:8

“But I feel like I can’t help it,” you may say. “Anxiety is so powerful and takes over my thinking, my existence, and affects my sleep, my heart rate, my blood pressure, my digestion, my relationships, and my thoughts.”

What we allow our minds to feed on affects us. What we meditate on throughout the day and in our waking hours of the night slowly changes us.

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Is there a grid of what materials are cleared to cross the threshold into the furnace of our thoughts? Wood is good. Materials with petrol or gunpowder are not. Have my thoughts cleared the Philippians 4:8 test?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8

Are my thoughts true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy?? Or are they dark, pessimistic, desperate, slandering of God’s character, denying His nearness, or embracing some “bad karma” idea that you are getting what you deserve from years ago?

You are stoking materials into the fire of your mind that will eventually affect you. Paul gave us a list of good slow-burn thoughts that help us regain clarity. The very first on his list is “whatever is true.” “True” is whatever agrees with reality as known in the mind of God.

Thinking on what is really true cools the fire of most anxieties, which are mostly speculations about what will happen in the future without God in the picture – “I’ll get in so much trouble,” “I’m gonna die and leave my family in heartbreak,” “I could have been shot in the crossfire!” It is not true. None of it. Most anxiety magnifies the worse-case scenario and makes God disappear. It is the worst kind of speculation, imagining yourself alone in your trouble without God, His grace, His promises, or His people.

3. The Th(i)nkful Principle

Something bad happens and the fires of anxiety flare. Firstly, we’ve already seen that we can fight anxiety by getting busy with kingdom business at home, at school, at work, or in our community. Secondly, we have to watch our meditations and keep the combustible, harmful speculations out of the furnace. Thirdly, we need to think of what we can be thankful for in the situation and elsewhere in our life. This is the discipline of being th(i)nkful.

“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

“In everything give thanks” is the Lord’s command because His meticulous Providence governs each detail of our lives, they are working for my good and His glory in His time, He is with me, He has measured what I can handle with His grace, I can cry out to Him at any time, and I have His Word, His Spirit, His promises, and His people around me. How will I respond? He is watching me. The angels in both kingdoms are watching. How will I respond?

Productive & Unproductive Anxiety

“anxious: (adj) uneasy and apprehensive about an uncertain event or matter: worried.

(from Latin anxius, from angere, to torment)

thefreedictionary.com

Giving proper prudence to a matter or having proper fear for a dangerous situation is NOT what I am referring to here. You can address a dangerous situation with caution and not be overrun and controlled by anxious thoughts.

In this picture our youngest daughter is looking at a young lion cub in South Africa. That little lion is strong. Not respecting the danger associated with this animal would be foolish.

BUT there is another fear that is not good. It is a faithless fear. It is a fear that God is not really in control. God doesn’t care about me and my little life. Those lies can feed a sinful anxiousness.

Navigation Plan

Do you have a plan to handle anxiety when a Sovereign God ordains life to throw you a curveball? You could formulate your own, but here’s an example of what to write out in the back of your Bible:

  • First run to the Lord in prayer and acknowledge that God is God and I am not
  • God is with me right at this moment and knows more about this than I do
  • God wants me to run TO Him with my cares not AWAY from Him and stew
  • Begin searching for things that I can think thanks about even right in the storm
  • Romans 8:18 tells me that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be
  • Matthew 11:30 describes the Lord’s yoke as easy and His burden as light
  • Even if everything else goes wrong, I can give thanks for Jesus saving my soul
  • This life is a vapor and will soon be over; I will be made perfect and my troubles will be over!

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:7

Remember

Thinking Back

“Remember when we did that right before Christmas?” she said, as her mind drifted back to relive the moment. She paused to savor the memory one more time.

Do you remember things that you are thankful for? Do you pause for a moment to savor the joy of that memory?

Recently, we earnestly prayed with a family in our church-body here in South Africa for their urgent need. This precious family had not been all together as a family for many years. Their oldest sons had moved to the States to go to college and one got married. Waiting for important government papers prevented their travel with their newly adopted children.

Many of us came before the Throne on their behalf and asked for God to be merciful to them if it be His will. We prayed for a long time. God did not act until it got very close to the wire. We knew that we could trust the LORD even if His answer was ‘no.’

But in the fullness of His plan, He gave them their request right when He chose to do so, at virtually the last minute. Oh, the rejoicing in our church. We wanted to sing and dance to celebrate with them. We were SO thankful. Full of thanksgiving. Overflowing with thanks!!🙌🏼

They were ALL together for Thanksgiving. As I rehearse that happening, I want to smile and thank God anew.

It is a good thing to REMEMBER. It is important for us to tell others, too, especially our children and people in our sphere around us. “Let me tell you of this awesome thing God did in the life of one of our friends!”

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:11-12

Remembering Builds Faith

In Joshua 4 the people of Israel were asked by the Lord to do a curious thing. One man from every one of the twelve tribes was to pick up a stone from the Jordan river as they passed through and carry it on their shoulder to the other side.

The children of Israel had weathered many hardships, and multiple challenges lay ahead. As they came upon the mighty Jordan river, the LORD did a miracle and dried up the river for all of them to cross over.

On the other side of the Jordan river at Gilgal, Joshua set up the twelve stones as a memorial to remember.

The Lord wanted them to have a physical reminder of God’s mighty power on their behalf.

“When your children ask their father in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground,’ For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”

Joshua 4:21-24

As the generations would tell and retell what had happened, the remembrance of what took place would build faith for the next generation to also trust that God would direct and provide for them.

Th(i)nkful Remembrance

We are nearing the end of 2022. What are things for which you can remember to think thanks for this year?

But…what if this year has been full of raw, difficult pain? What then?

We run to the character of God. We chose to rest in His sovereignty of working ALL things in a divine plan to conform me to be like Jesus. We remember that this life is just a vapor, we are headed for a celestial home. The incredible treasure in hard things is that the Lord is with us right in those awful times. He holds us, He whispers that we need to wait on Him and take courage. We remember the myriad of other people who are going through similar struggles.

He is coming back for us. He promised. We wait with anticipation and with thankful remembrance of all that He has done for us. The main thing being that if we have trusted in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, He has forgiven all our sin, from the cradle to the grave.

What about making a time alone or with others, for which you express things you thank God for doing this year?

Thankfulness is a joy doubled.

David Brown

Quick To Thank

I Thank God For Joan

I have someone to thank. My friend Joan has been amazing! I asked her to come up with a project that my 7 Rivers Knitters could do while she visited here, and look what she did. She designed these awesome Zulu Decorative Pillow Covers that people can buy to make their home beautiful. We went shopping and cut out fabric together. We planned out and assembled these kits … and what a blessing they have been to the ladies. Yes, it has been challenging for them, but not impossible. We are learning and growing to make new beautiful things.

Joan has been a blessing in my life for many years. This last opportunity to think thanks was just so over-the-top. I was grateful for her thoughtful kindness and for the sustained effort she put into developing this project.

I thank the Lord for Joan. I am thankful to Joan. I am thankful for Joan.

https://www.7riversoutreach.org/7-rivers-knitters

Expansive Credit

The opportunity to thank someone is seldom out of reach. When we thank someone, we give credit to them. As I thank God for my friend Joan, I give Him credit for creating Joan and for sanctifying her and for equipping her as He has.

When I thank Joan, I give her credit as well. I say that I notice how creative she is, how much effort she put into designing the pillows, knitting and sewing a prototype, raising funds for the project, helping me shop for fabric and yarn, compiling kits, mentioning to her that I couldn’t and wouldn’t have done this project without her. There is so much credit I can give for so many things, rather than just saying “thanks for all your help on this.” It is a lovely thing to give someone “expansive credit.”

Am I looking for opportunities to express thanks? To give expansive credit to someone? Or do I maybe just sum up a massive amount of thanks for a sustained and multifaceted effort someone has made with a curt, “Hey, thanks”? Or worse yet, do I just think thanks and then say nothing? Don’t let your introverted personality or stoic culture stand in the way of practicing this godly discipline in your life.

It is interesting to note that when I go without something for a while, I become much more thankful to receive it back. The absence of something we have taken for granted – like electricity or water or a job or a friend – makes us aware of how nice it was to have those things or people. Only then, we realize that we need to be careful not to take that thing for granted. Must I lose something or someone to be truly thankful for them? Too many people give expansive credit to others only at their funeral. Give them a eulogy (eu=good; logos=message) before they die.

Reverse Entitlement

We’re living in an age of entitlement. People believe that they are deserving of privileges or special treatment. “I have this coming to me.” As a Jesus-follower, let’s build our lives on what HE looks like, and overflow with thankfulness. Let’s not overflow with negativity or insensitivity, seldom praising the people we live with and work with. The Bible says bluntly, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21) We’ve all felt the pain of name-calling, put-downs, anger — things that killed our joy, confidence, or sense of worth. But there are some unforgotten comments that are like wind beneath our wings; among them is the powerful uplift of a “thank you.” An acknowledgment, a “thank you” to a son or daughter for their strength of character, generosity, sensitivity to people who are hurting, for their passion, sense of humor, discipline, insight, or honesty. This will cause them to flourish.”

Dick Hester

Entitlement is a preoccupation about what has not come to me but should have. The energy is on pulling in the focus, on self-promotion, on gaining attention, on demanding privilege. The worst is when lethargy and mediocrity demand such things. Thankfulness is reverse entitlement. It is outward focus, others-promotion, attention deflection, and advocating privilege for someone who deserves credit.

Who Will You Thank Today?

So how about it. Who will you thank today? Be quick to do it. It might not be that hard. 🙂 And as we come up on the Thanksgiving season, perhaps this is something you could do as a family.

I want to have as a goal for every day that I have left to live that I would daily find someone to encourage. Maybe it would be a simple “thank you” for doing that. Maybe a text. Maybe a big smile. Maybe a written note. Maybe something I bake or buy.

It is important to remember that I thank God for that person and then express my thanks to the person. God is sovereignly behind every good and perfect gift.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

James 1:17

The beautiful repercussion of being quick to thank, is that you start being more th(i)nkful. It just happens automatically. You think thanks!

LET’S BE QUICK TO THANK!

Release Yourself Through Forgiveness

Opportunity for Wisdom

She lied! There was actually no doubt about the action. It was a blatant, outright falsehood. How could Sam forgive her? The damage to his trust, to their relationship, had been done. Why did he need to tell her the truth anymore? Why not betray her trust as she had done his? That seemed fair.

As Sam met with his friend and shared about his pain and anger, the friend pointed him to Ephesians 4:32. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” The contrast was glaring. Sam’s friend suggested that the response to the hurt be kindness in return. What??

In Scripture, we often see the irony of opposites. Tozer once wrote about these opposites. “[A Christian] empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible and knows that which passeth knowledge.”

Now, when we have been mistreated, abused, and sinned against, it is correct to confront in love and to speak truth to the offender. But you also need to forgive, not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because God through Christ, has forgiven you. We don’t forgive because we don’t really appreciate the depths to which we ourselves have been forgiven.

Forgiveness Linked to Being Th(i)nkful

When a person is working through what it means to forgive and not harbor bitterness, there’s a battle within. It feels wrong that the offender doesn’t get what they deserve. And then there is an ‘aha’ moment when we realize that we don’t forgive an offender because they deserve to be forgiven. We forgive because we are so enormously thankful for how God forgave us through Jesus. Forgiveness begins with thankfulness. How thankful we are that we didn’t get what we deserved!!

Think about this admonition.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:14-21

As we think thanks about God’s forgiving us for the millions of evil thoughts, motives, actions and words we have had through our lifetime, and continue pondering the new foundation of the Word, the Spirit and a clean conscience He has given us to stand on, we can release the stone of unforgiveness towards the one who has maltreated us. It may take time. It may need to be worked through with a counselor. But as we think thanks on how God has forgiven us, it gives us a motive to forgive, too.

Releasing Them Releases Us

We don’t forgive others just because we have been forgiven. We also forgive because harboring bitterness and waiting to take revenge is a toxin that poisons us, not them; a cage that imprisons us, not them. Harboring unforgiveness and bitterness has mental, emotional, and biological consequences for us.

There is a release and renewed vigor when we choose to forgive. There is a wonderful freedom that comes from forgiving a person that has hurt us, even if that person has since died. God has created us and He knows that forgiving is what will eventually bring deep healing. The irony is that people often hug their prison cage and sip at their poison. God forgives us so that we can release others and thereby release ourselves. The Lord will deal with the wicked and the unrepentant.

Sure, the optimal scenario is when the offender comes and seeks forgiveness. Until then, we give “accorded forgiveness” based on our own resources as those who are thankful that we have been forgiven much. But when an offender seeks forgiveness, then we enthusiastically give our “completed forgiveness.” Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting, but it is one big decision followed by a thousand small decisions not to bring the matter up again by way of revenge. Forgetting is weakness. Forgiving is strength.

To forgive is to imitate the God who forgave us and continues to forgive us even when we fail to ask. We are so very thankful for His steadfast love and faithfulness, and our forgiving others begins with that thankfulness.

“We don’t forgive because we don’t really appreciate the depths to which we ourselves have been forgiven.”

David Brown

Every Monday

It’s Deliberate

Every Monday we send each other a thinkful list. Our brains search through our immediate situation and we deliberately find things that we can think thanks about. We have done this now for over two years. It is amazing to me that when I read my friend’s thinkful list, I always feel edified. I know that she has hard things in her life, but she chooses to focus and draw out things for which to give thanks to the Lord.

Being th(i)nkful is choosing to deliberately focus on the good in our good times and the good in our bad times.

“I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”

Psalm 77:12

Why?

So why do I need to go through the discomfort of forging new brain neural pathways of finding things to think thanks about?

That is a good question. First of all we need to do this because our Shepherd has asked this of us.

He has given a direct command to give thanks in all circumstances that I find myself in (I Thessalonians 5:18). He wants me to ponder His works, His ways, His solutions. It is a good thing for me to trust my Shepherd. It is a good thing to take time out. My Shepherd makes me lie down in green pastures and He leads me beside still waters. Taking 20 minutes out of a hectic schedule to gather my thoughts about what I am thankful for is lying down in a green pasture for a bit. He is pleased. And He restores my soul.

Secondly, this practice will become easier when I have carved that neural pathway deeply. I enjoy thinking about how you can do something more wisely and with less challenge. I can trust my Shepherd’s way because:

“All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.”

Psalm 25:10

Wonder in Reine

My husband and I just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. David whisked me away to Norway and we had the best getaway ever!! We had been dreaming of going to Reine, Norway and climbing Reinebringen. It is a demanding steep hike to the top of a mountain. On the summit you can see for miles. We got to actually do it!

You can get disoriented driving around all the little roads and alleys in these fishing villages. But up top, you get an incredible overview of where everything is, and how it fits together. God has this kind of view all the time. He sees the beginning from the end. He is the Sovereign One over every nook and cranny and is therefore worthy of our trust.

So if He says, “Karin, give thanks in everything,” I need to heed that. His Spirit is within me and living with me through all of my troubling circumstances. He loves me as He loves His Son who went through troubling circumstances. He knows that thinking and thanking Him will be for my good, so I need to obey. I desire to discern, delight, and do His will in my life, and He wants me to express thankfulness as a core life-skill.

One last thing! We discovered such wonder at the fjord by Olstinden, Reine. The water was clear and turquoise. Looked quite magical, and we stood in awe at the perfect weather and pristine beauty.

Whenever we see such beauty – whether God-made, or manmade, or just created by computer-generated imaging – eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the imagination, the wonders God has prepared for those who love Him! So we can always be thankful that the future for God’s true children is far better than anything we can see or experience now, as amazing as that might be.

Keep thinking thanks and keep your gaze on Him and His view of your life. Do it every Monday with a friend.

I Do Not Take It For Granted

Removed

In April of 2022 the area around Durban, South Africa, received torrential rains.

Highways were flooded and homes were destroyed from landslides and water. At least 430 were reported to have passed away, with many more still missing. Such devastation and ruin. Food parcels were assembled and distributed. Collections for help to rebuild homes were taken up.

In our little complex of flats, we only lost water and power for several days. Otherwise, were just fine. It was interesting to see how frail we are in our great and powerful Western civilization; just take away our water and electricity, and we are in an absolute crisis. We had to carry water to flush the toilets and boil for drinking. It gave us a clearer picture of what it is like in our nearby rural communities to carry water for your daily needs.

Day after day we got the opportunity to learn that having access to water and power is something to be very thankful for indeed. We took it for granted, and when it wasn’t granted, we learned to value it.

The rural African lives far more like Jesus than we do. When Jesus walked on earth, He did not have running water, electricity, air conditioning, automobiles, or wifi. What was normal for him would now be a crisis for us.

All Of A Sudden

Then one morning I awoke to David saying that the power was back on. Hallelujah!! Later, water trickled from the faucet for several hours, but eventually came back in full.

I was so hit with the fact that I must NEVER take these things for granted. I am now so thankful for the absolute magic of looking intently, turning a faucet handle slowly … and there comes clean water!!

I am more thankful after going through the removal of the object. Like the old adage, “love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”

I know that my fleshly tendency will be to gravitate towards taking it for granted after a while, but I am fighting that with my whole being. I want to etch deeply in my mind that I must continue to be thankful for the conveniences technology has brought us, while being reminded not to let them make me too soft.

Thank You, Lord, for Reminders

Physical reminders can be quite effective. Going without water and electricity for many days sharply embedded in me a reminder to be thankful for those daily gifts. But I was meditating on a spiritual analogy to this loss of water as well.

Water in the Scripture is a picture of spiritual life itself. The nonbeliever goes about searching for meaning in the myriad dry wells of our cultures. The mirage of the new draws them foolishly to yet another dry well. They are like a desert shrub, like the chaff that the wind drives away (Psalm 1, Jeremiah 17:6).

But when God opens a lost person’s heart to the gospel and he or she receives the Word, they experience the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5, Ephesians 5:26). Their reborn spirit, indwelled by the Holy Spirit and fed by the Word of God, is referred to as “living water” which will never run dry and will bubble over for the benefit of others (John 4:14, 7:38).

Despite these lovely truths, there are times when I realize that I am spiritually thirsty and dried up. Sometimes it is because I have given out emotionally and spiritually for days without much of a rest. Sometimes it is because I have poured months of counsel into a soul only to experience their betrayal or to see them make woefully bad decisions. Sometimes it is because I have an idol or sin that I am not parting with (Psalm 32:4). Most often it is because I am not washing my mind with the Word to regain God’s perspective. I turn on the faucet and nothing comes out.

But I go down on my knees with tears, and I go to the Word, and I go to the Throne and pour out my heart … and that brokenness dislodges whatever stone was covering the well. The water begins to flow again. “It’s going to be ok. Self, speak truth! Self, give me God-soaked counsel!”

“Well,” I whisper to myself, “through Jesus’ sacrifice in my place, I was forgiven of all my sins (from the cradle to the grave) all at once, I was reconciled with the Creator God and was placed in right standing in His family and Kingdom. I am set to inherit from Him one day. One day soon, Jesus will return for me and my brothers and sisters. This earth is my only hell, and I will live out His mission for my life …” and I end up shouting out with my finger in the air, “because I want to make Him happy, and that’s all that matters!” Guess what? The water is on. He has washed me with His word.

Meditating and saturating my thoughts on all that I have in Christ is fodder for thinking thanks. Recently my husband handed out a paper during a message with the title “Who I Am In Christ.” I have it tucked in my Bible to remind me daily. He has given me so very much in Jesus.

Changed

This temporal removal of having something I needed every day, changed me. It prompted thinking thanks. I want to remain changed. May I not take gifts from the Father for granted.

Water and power are wonderful commodities, but even more importantly, spiritual cleansing and power are essential. I must have that living water and not let the well get blocked. Worse yet, I must never go after the empty wells of my culture.

God offers water full and free flowing to me and to you. It will always be there for us. Torrential rains and flooding will not obstruct it. Receive it with gratitude and cherish it.

I do not take it for granted!

Schedule It In

Do You Plan?

Do you use a planner? I tend to write things up on my monthly chalkboard in the kitchen and then keep paper slips as reminders. I do love to draw a big fat line through something that I have accomplished. 🙂

Well, we are way into 2022. The days are marching consistently on whether we give them permission or not. Seconds slip into minutes, minutes conspire to slide passed hours, hours suddenly become yesterdays, days blur into weeks, and weeks disappear into months. How are you doing? Staying on top of things or dragging underneath?

Check this out:

Nicolas Brown has designed his own daily planner, which prioritizes tasks, lists issues to deal with, and includes a section on th(i)nkfulness to begin the day with the right frame of mind.

The caveat, of course, to any effort at planning is that we yield everything to the Divine Editor of our moments and days. Proverbs 16:9 states: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

We do our part in planning our day and seeking to discover the will of the Father, but ultimately the Father may have added some twists and turns that were not at all part of our plan. Then, like a good GPS, we must recalculate and embrace His will. That is at least what we should be doing. Living it out could be another story.

Schedule It In

One thing we know for sure that whatever the Father’s will is for us today, it will include thinking thanks. He commands us to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for you. (I Thessalonians 5:18). The Lord wants us to be th(i)nkful in whatever situation we find ourselves in. But beyond the incidental, we can schedule that into our day.

Carving those brain neural pathways of th(i)nkfulness is a matter of obedience, but it is so much more. It helps us process things. It promotes mental health. It edifies us. It wipes the lenses and clarifies our biblical worldview. It encourages us to see God’s fingerprints even in the darkest of human challenges. We can rehearse God’s promises to us even when we are overwhelmed and feeling low. Especially then.

  • We need to keep a “big-God theology.” Our God is BIG!
  • He is sovereign in all the details of my life.
  • He is not surprised at my hardship.
  • He knows that, with His enabling, I can trust Him in this season.
  • He gives me His Word as a ‘How To Process.”
  • This life is a vapor and will soon be over.
  • He is coming back for His Beloved Bride.
  • He is using the present situation to conform me a little closer to the image of Jesus as I yield to Him.
  • My peace does not have to be dependent on my circumstances (2 Thessalonians 3:16).

Living Out The Plan

So how do I hit the “Play” button?

Nick uses a paper that he prints off and places it into a disc binder for easy assimilation. You may have a different daily planner. I use a th(i)nkful journal in which I record things at night before I go to bed. I have been doing a th(i)nkful journal for many years now, and it has developed a way of thinking in my brain such that, throughout the day, I am on the hunt for things that will make it into the journal that evening. It pushes me to look for things for which I can give thanks to God. That mental action has become part of my daily plan.

Sometimes I just want to rehearse Scripture in my th(i)nkful journal – so thankful for the living Word of God that can change our perspective and help us get our eyes on things above and not on things on earth (Colossians 3:2).

Just a heads up that it might be helpful to have an accountability partner as you develop this brain neural pathway. Having someone touch base with you and ask how you are doing in that department can be the nudge to keep you carving. 🙂

Here’s my accountability partner.

“The way we spend our time defines who we are.”

Jonathan Estrin

Thinkful in Sorrow

All So Fast

My family has had a lot of sorrow these past two months. In September my sister Sonja and her husband JP both died of Covid within two days of each other. It was such a surprise. Sonja had been caring for my aging dad, now almost 88-years-old. When he picked up Covid, she had him rushed to the hospital. But then she got sick, and then her husband. We had only a few days before JP and then Sonja had passed into eternity.

My aged father made it through Covid double-pneumonia strangely enough, but has since deteriorated significantly and is now on hospice and hoping to see His Savior soon.

Wow! So much… so fast. Death is so normal, so common – millions die every day. But death is not good, and death is not right, and death was not in God’s original design. It takes your loved ones out of view and out of reach, made worse when it does so suddenly, or does so years or decades before their expected departure. It is a witness that this whole earth is broken and in need of fixing.

Thinkful for Future Fixes

Death is no stranger in the Bible – the word is mentioned more than 500 times. Fortunately, Death lost its keys, its teeth, its power and its sting at the cross (Rev. 1:18, Heb. 2:14-15, 2 Tim. 1:10). Those who live and believe in Jesus will never die; their earthsuits will shut down and go to sleep, but the core of who they really are, their soul-spirit, will rise undiminished in freedom and elation to the side of the One who chose them and called them into His Kingdom and family.

For those who walk with Jesus, the fear of death is gone. But one day, Death, as the last enemy, will be vanquished forever (1 Cor. 15:26, Rev. 20:14, 21:4). Amazing. Death will be gone.

Thinkful For Current Joys

We were thankful that the Lord sustained dad so that some of us traveling in for Sonja and JP’s funerals were able to visit with him; he was not snatched away from us. We were also thankful that the Lord chose to heal dad of Covid.

When dad moved into hospice, he was assigned a chaplain. We were so thankful that, in God’s providential kindness, the chaplain had been a missionary, just like my dad. They connected right away about getting the gospel to the lost who have never heard. Now on a regular basis this dear man visits, reads scripture to him, and they pray together. My brothers were able to organize a CD player with a hymns CD that is playing in dad’s room. The old hymns of grace are ministering to his spirit as he rests.

Thinkful for Past Memories

As our hearts ache and we struggle to accept the fact that these dear ones are suddenly gone, we also recount a lot of sweet memories. Just this past July, the Lord allowed me to visit with dad and Sonja three times. One of those times, Sonja shared with me that she had acquired some scripture cards online and was giving them out to people at the bank or the shop, especially if they looked sad. I loved seeing her desire to share the Lord and give hope to people through His Word. Little did we know that she had only a few weeks left.

I think of childhood memories growing up in Norway and how we loved to sled down the hill to where we lived in Brumunddal. Sonja was so daring. She didn’t seem to fear anything. I admired her courage. In the frigid winter months, we would cozy up, and our mom would read library books to us in the evening as we sat with our knitting. When she would come to the end of a chapter, we would always say, “Just one more chapter.” 🙂

A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered.

C. S Lewis

Processing Sorrow

We live beside the Indian Ocean where the beach is broken up by rock outcroppings against which the waves crash. Grief is like a wave of the sea. It billows so strongly and then subsides, then billows again.

What has been an anchor for my soul in times of deep sorrow over the years is latching onto a special verse from God’s Word. This time I chose Psalm 71:3a “Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come.” When the waves come, I hold onto the rock, but amazingly the Rock holds onto me as well. With the rock, the waves are not so frightening, and I will not be swept away.

Thinkful List:

  • JP and Sonja went to heaven so closely. They would have struggled so to be left alone without the other. God was merciful and took them together.
  • Dad has had a wonderful life serving the Lord, and now when he is finishing up, he can look forward to his reward and not be afraid to meet his Creator.
  • Chaplain Todd Johnson is being like a balm in Gilead and ministering to my dad. This is such a special kindness to me being so far away here in Africa. Very thankful to God for this.
  • My brothers provided the CD player and dad’s favorite hymn CD to be played in his room.
  • My brothers have visited with my dad, told him they loved him, and he replied that he loved them too.
  • Psalm 71:3a is a comfort to my soul.
  • So many people are praying for us, and it pours grace over us.
  • When you come face to face with death, it helps you to live differently, more purposefully. It is a good thing to clarify your focus, priorities, and goals in life.

May you also find grace to think thanks in your own sorrow!

The Encouragement Board

Shifting Your Focus

“Not again!” she said as her daughter spilled milk all over the kitchen floor. She had barely finished cleaning up the first mess. It seemed like lately all she was seeing were the negative things in her children. She knew that this was not the best way to go through a day, but she was tired, and she was missing her husband since he had to be away working long hours as a Covid nurse. Something had to change!

Let me introduce you to a creative momma who came up with a marvelous idea. Instead of focusing on all the negative things that the kids were doing throughout the day, she chose to look for things that were an encouragement, and she wrote them down on an “encouragement board.”

If she came across something that was nice, she would jot it down ~ maybe the children played quietly for half an hour mid-morning, or perhaps one child said ‘thank you’ without being prompted, or she observed a kind gesture. These were the things that Lori would record.

Then after dinner, she would gather the kids around and read the compilation from the Encouragement Board out loud for all to hear. The kids smiled, giggled and added comments. What a nice way to end the day before bed! The children would head to bed thinking of the blessings that had made their way to mom’s Encouragement Board. And of course, a seed thought was planted in their minds of what they would do the next day that might make it to the board.

We could say that “adversity is the mother of invention.” Below is this precious family.

“When you’re thankful for what you have….the list of things to be thankful for seems to grow.”

Melanie Beckler

Focus is a Choice

When you are going through particularly difficult days, what do you meditate on? It is the slack, lazy and simple mind that goes with the flow; it chooses not to choose; it selects the “slave to external stimuli” mode.

A wise mind embraces the conscious discipline of choosing what to think on. With introspection, it considers options; it rejects lies and worthless, dead-end, dry-well ideas and, guided toward a God-perspective by the Word and the Spirit, selects things more positive and edifying. Thankfulness is at the core of this mindset.

I love how Paul in Romans 12:1-2 challenges us to be transformed in our thinking. The Greek word means metamorphosis, like when Jesus went from His normal appearance into a transformed, radiant appearance. This is no small thing in our lives. It takes mental choice to change thought paths and embrace God’s admonition to give thanks in all situations.

It is easy to be physically lazy; it is easy to be mentally lazy. But in the long run, it can kill you. Following impulses, emotions and the values of the world is just so natural, but God has called us to lives of supernatural thinking, speaking and behaving. How about starting your own “Encouragement Board?”

Practice What You Preach

Crisis

It was late Friday afternoon outside Detroit, Michigan. We were in stop-n-go traffic on I-275 around the city.

David’s peripheral vision saw something in the rear-view mirror approaching fast, and he yelled “Hold on!” All of a sudden we felt a hard hit from behind. Our little Honda CRV was slammed from behind. They launched us up into the truck in front of us and made that truck run into the truck ahead of it.

Confused, but safe in tight seatbelts, we were ok. We did all the things that needed to be done, and in the end, our little brown companion, nicknamed “Coffee,” was deemed totaled.

Opportunity

So here was a great opportunity for us to practice what we preach. We loved that little Honda. She was paid off. David had diligently serviced and repaired her to last for 350,000 miles. She served us well for eight years and was waiting for us whenever we returned to the States. But she belonged to the Lord though, and when He saw fit that her job was over, that had to be ok.

Why Is It So Hard?

When something happens that is not what we had expected, there comes an opportunity to readjust our expectations. We profess that we have left everything in His hands, and that we belong to Him. But when loss actually happens, it still is hard. Why?

It feels like it was not right. It feels like He must have not noticed or protected. We know from scripture that is a lie. He controls and is aware of all things. He even knows the number of hairs on my head (Matt. 10:30).

Adjusting my expectations to what is evidently His different sovereign design is part of “renewing” my mind, and doing so enables me to discern His good and acceptable and perfect will for me (Rom. 12:2).

Plugging In Th(i)nkful

As the moments passed there on I-275, and we got a clearer picture of what God had for us on that Friday afternoon, we had the chance to put th(i)nkfulness into practice. Right emotions would follow right thinking.

We made phone calls to friends nearby and were overwhelmed with how God provided for us. We could see His fingerprints, and so David and I began to list what was good and what would have been much worse but didn’t happen:

  • I was able to communicate with Ann Magee and she and her husband (a pastor near Detroit) were so kind to drive a good distance to pick us up
  • The accident happened near someone we knew and not six hours away from any contacts, like where we had been the evening before
  • We walked away from an accident that could have demanded our lives or have left us handicapped in various ways
  • We weren’t at fault and didn’t have to feel badly
  • Though it made some funny noises, we were able to drive our car out of the way and up to the next exit to a safe place
  • People all over began praying for us; we felt God’s supernatural peace as we rested all things with Him and were thankful (Phil.4:6-7)
  • We did not have grandchildren in the back where they could have been hurt
  • Stephen Magee, a Physical Therapist Doctor, gave us good advice on how to work through whiplash
  • We were able to see how quickly life can change unexpectedly; the reality of every day being a gift was etched more deeply into our mind.
  • Don and Ann were so gracious to let us borrow one of their cars to complete our long trip reporting to churches and supporters
  • God allowed this accident to happen at the end of our State-side time so we were able to finish our trip up with no further need for a car before heading back to SA

Have The Renew Plan Ready

When opportunities arise that were not expected, we have to have our ‘renewing our mind’ plan ready to put into action. God’s Word is the agent of renewing correctly. We are allowed to pour out our hearts to the Lord (Psalm 62:8) and yet He asks that we are thankful in every circumstance (I Thessalonians 5:18).

Having a plan ready with truth-anchors could prove very helpful indeed.

  • I Corinthians 10:13 promises that God has checked my test. He is faithful, and with me, and will give me a way of escape as I call out to Him. My circumstances may not change, but the way I see them can.
  • Romans 8:28 promises that God is using all things to conform me to His Son. The happenings of my day are not random. He is using them to make me like Jesus as I respond like Christ would.
  • Hebrew 13:5b-6 promises that the Lord is with me and will not forsake. He is my Helper.
  • Philippians 4:13 promises that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
  • I am loved by my Creator even if He allows pain in my life (Psalm 119:71).
Don and Ann Magee ~ blessings flowed through them upon us

God is God and I am not.

He is completely trustworthy and does things well. I may not agree with or understand His ways, but I can trust His character and wait on Him to give me direction for each step forward.

May you be able to discern that good and acceptable and perfect (GAP) will of God in whatever twists and turns He has for you!