Spot It?

African Game Drive

One of my favorite things to do is going on a game drive through the African bush.a blogpost on spotter 3

It really helps if you have someone with you who is a good spotter. :). It can be tricky to catch a glimpse of rare animals that are camouflaged well in the bush. A special treat would be to spot the Big Five in one day! That is almost impossible, but it can happen.

David’s Devotionals

During the lockdown here in SA, our elders at Grace-Toti have given daily devotionals that have been so encouraging. David records his challenges right in our dining area.

a blogpost on spotter 2

He shared one that was very apropos for th(i)nkful:

“Today, I want us to ponder … thanking God for what is happening.  The verse I want us to look at is 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

You want to know God’s will for you?  Give thanks in all circumstances.

The word thanks, thankful, thanksgiving is mentioned thousands of times in Scripture, so it’s one of the largest themes in the Bible.

Now listen closely: Thankfulness is a both a natural response … and an unnatural discipline.giving a present

Thankfulness is a natural response to something good coming from outside yourself – someone gives you a thoughtful gift, does something to help you, makes your life easier or brighter, speaks an encouraging word to you.  You feel an inner sense of joy …and for a selfish person it stops right there – joy at the wonderful thing someone did or said. Maybe they go on and talk about themselves some more!

Whole cultures can be selfish like this – Romans 1:21 is one of the saddest verses in all the Bible:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile – empty, aimless – in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

In a selfish culture, if things move from average to negative, they demand that God fix that. But if things move from average to positive … they won’t call for days of celebration thanking God for His blessings, but they will talk about the great advances their scientists or industries have made.

Now, many hundreds of years ago in the Anglo-Germanic languages, the words think and thank came from the same root. So … a THANKFUL person will feel that inner sense of joy … and then think … and attach that joy to that other person. They will assign credit to that person … and give value to what they’ve done. “They were so kind; that was so thoughtful of them.”

But this is all inside the head and heart.  Now, what do you do with that?

The first mistake I mentioned was selfishly feeling good … but not feeling thankful.

Our second mistake is feeling thankful … but not expressing our thankfulness to that other person or group of people.

I mentioned at the beginning that thankfulness is a both a natural response … and an unnatural discipline. For those who struggle to speak up, to express their thanks, perhaps due to being shy or an introvert, this is where the unnatural discipline kicks in. The command is not just feel thankful, but GIVE thanks.

Colossians 3 mentions thankfulness three times in three verses – verses 15-17. Take a look at it if you wish:

“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 [the message about who Jesus is and what He’s done] 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.

There are three phrases: be thankful, thankfulness in your hearts, and giving thanks. Let’s look at them:

Firstly, God says “be thankful.” The Greek verb is in the prolonged sense, so be continually becoming thankful.  Being thankful is a routine practice of spotting and highlighting the good that God or others have done.

Spotting a leopardMost of us love going on game drives. Sometimes you can go with rangers in the open trucks, and way up front on the front grill, there is a seat for the spotter. Some spotters are amazing in the way they can pick out little details that the average person would miss. The swishing tail in the tall grass, the way those birds are behaving.

When God says very simply “Be thankful.” He is saying “my child, you are the spotter.anxious 1

I am at work all around your world. The earth is filled with my glory. You benefit from the common grace that I shower upon mankind every moment of every day. As the Most High, I rule in the kingdoms of humanity; I establish the times and seasons of nations, but I am also orchestrating every detail of your life; I am sending my Son back soon and am making things ready. YOU ARE THE SPOTTER!

Look for my fingerprints, and point others to me!  Others may see nothing but dead grass, nothing but panic and pandemic, shriveling economies and withering hopes. Even some of my own children feel this way. But you must be thankful. You must search and spot and speak up about the things for which people can be thankful.”

Verse 16 – with thankfulness in your hearts – “Thankfulness” is a heart attitude that creates an impulse to express gratitude to God and to others. The attitude of gratitude. Your heart is your wanter. Whatever you really want, that’s what’s in your heart.

So being thankful is the routine practice of spotting things to be thankful for. But thankfulness in the heart is the energy to express it.

Verse 17 – Whatever you say or do, do it as the representative of Christ, “giving thanks” to the Father – here is the command again that we saw in 1 Thessalonians 5. Give thanks; that is, speak out your list of things to be thankful for. You must move your mouth … or maybe your pen or keyboard. Don’t hold it inside – don’t just feel thankful.

You can thank God for His amazing character – His love, patience, mercy and compassion, His sovereign control of all of my circumstances for my good and His glory. You can thank God for giving us His Word – our record of who God is, what He has done, His plan for the ages.  You can thank God for the beauty, power and complexity of the creation.a bird blog 2

You can thank Him for your needs being met, for friends and family, for body parts that still work, and a heart that beats automatically while you sleep. These things are just common for us … but take your eyesight away. What if you only had tomorrow what you thanked God for today?

In this pandemic, you can thank Him that the virus isn’t even more deadly; thank Him for hard working healthcare professionals, for governments trying to do the right thing, for crime that has dropped way off due to the lockdown and no alcohol sales. Many of our hospitals are reporting that there is nothing to do – with isolation and no alcohol, the ER is quiet.

All of these are thanking him IN the trial – the trial dominates the scene, but you are the spotter and you draw attention to things around the trial to be thankful for. But the deep blue hero zone is where you thank God FOR the trial.

Father, thank you for the coronavirus, because … we’ve had time together as family, more time in your Word and in prayer, that we are being refined and made godlier as we learn to trust and not fret; that you are speaking to people and to nations; that our church has reached thousands with God’s Truth over the internet during lockdown. We can thank Him FOR the trial.

Thankfulness is both a natural response … and an unnatural discipline. In times of suffering and anxiety, thankfulness is a discipline. The dread of the valley of dark shadows grabs our attention; the wind and waves of Peter’s walk on the sea challenge our ability to focus.

We need to press through and be “thinkful”, a word my Karin coined. Being th(i)nkful is choosing to download God’s strength to think thanks about every circumstance in my life and to express that thanks orally or in written form.

Virtually every sin that we commit is a result of a lack of thankfulness. So let’s obey this command from God’s Word this morning. Let’s become the spotters, highlighting the myriad things for which we can express our thankfulness.”

Be th(i)nkful! Be the spotter!

a blogpost about spotter

Powerless

Balcony Chat

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

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

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

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

First Thank

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

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

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

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

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

So What Happened?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Allentown Bible Church

Powerless Is Good

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

a blogpost about first thank 1

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

2 Corinthians 12:10

Thinkful Going Viral

Screen Shot 2020-04-06 at 2.21.10 PMGoing Viral

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

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

What Does Viral Mean?

A couple definitions of viral are:

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

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

Imagine Good Viral

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

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

Example of Going Viral

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

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

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

Thinkful Viral

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

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

Th(i)nkful (adj) describing people who choose to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in their life and to express that thanks orally or in written form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Didn’t Happen

It Didn’t Happen!

Driving our truck into Durban to file some papers with the Durban municipality, I hit and killed a pedestrian. Distraught after speaking with the police, I drove up two blocks and was hi-jacked at gunpoint at a traffic light.

STOP!

No, I was not part of those two incidents.  But I did realize that I had forgotten my ID documents that I needed for the municipality and had to turn around and go home to fetch them.

My husband shared this scenario with me the other day. Instead of voicing his frustration about forgetting the ID documents, he gave thanks for things that didn’t happen on the way to Durban.

An Anxiety Study

Dr. Don Joseph Goewey conducted some research about anxiety awhile back and found that:

  • 85% of things we worry about never happen;
  • Of the 15% that did happen, 79% of the people found that they were able to handle the difficulty better than they thought, OR that the difficulty taught them lessons worth learning
  • So, he concluded that “97% of what we worry about is just a fearful mind punishing us with exaggerations and misconceptions.”

“My life has been filled with terrible misfortune, most of which never happened.”
Michel de Montaigne

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”
Corrie Ten Boom

Resisting The “What Ifs”

I remember, when my 4-year-old daughter and I were part of an attempted hijacking in Johannesburg, that afterwards I struggled hard with wanting to think out scenarios that could have happened.  I realized then the genius and beauty of that first phrase in Philippians 4:8 – think about what is true!philippians4_8bThe truth was that I did not get shot. The car wasn’t taken. Elly wasn’t kidnapped. We did not even get physically injured. I did have a visual image of a man holding a handgun that I will have for the rest of my life, but the Lord has helped me work through it.

Happenings Highlight Non-happenings

 

This is my friend Elaine. In the second picture she is getting stitches in her finger. You may wonder why I would highlight this difficult challenge that she is going through. I want you to read what she wrote as she updated people on her accident:

“Dominic, Karissa and I were breaking up her tile floor to replace it. While throwing pieces in a bucket I accidentally scraped my hand on a sharp piece of scrap tile. It cut through my glove and cut a nice deep slice in my index finger on my left hand. 6 stitches put me back together again! So thankful it doesn’t hurt today!!! We have done A LOT of construction projects over the years and never have had an accident! Funny how we don’t think about what God has protected us from until there is an injury. But even in the injury I am thankful that God protected this from being worse…no cut tendons or other important parts!! God is good and today, I thank Him for what He DOESN’T allow to happen!”

One of the blessings of getting hurt or being sick is that it often can highlight so many things that we take for granted. It is good for us to remember and to express gratitude.

A blog on noThank You, God for all the hard things that didn’t happen today!

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