Choose to Think

How Many Thoughts Do You Have a Day?

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

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

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

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

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

So How Do You Spend Your 60 000?

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

I find that convicting and inspiring at the same time!

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

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

Retraining the Mind

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

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

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

A Th(i)nkful Journal

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

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

Example of Being Th(i)nkful

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

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

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

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

Th(i)nkful for 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

Be Aware of Flawed Thinking

The Wrong Order

When we go through difficult seasons in life, it is tempting to get things cart_before_the_horse_pictures_30991in the wrong order. We tend to look first at our circumstances and try to interpret God’s love and care, which seems missing.

We loose sight of the big picture and run to put out the immediate fire. Fully understandably, but dangerous.

Our emotions are strong and demanding and we cave easily to their demands. We want relief and peace. If God really loves me and is all-powerful, surely He would want the same for me?Be Aware Sign

    Be Aware! 

Gracious Gratitude vs Natural Gratitude

Mary K. Mohler in her recent book, Growing in Gratitude, brings out the importance of Jonathan Edward’s distinctions of “Gracious Gratitude” versus “Natural Gratitude.”

  • Gracious Gratitude: This is thankfulness for God himself – for who He is
  • Natural Gratitude: This is thankfulness for blessings received – for good gifts

Gratitude that acknowledges and thanks God for who He is lays the foundation for natural thanksgiving for what He gives. When we really understand God’s character; that He is completely sovereign, perfect in love, self-existent, with no beginning or end, aware of everything and nothing is hidden from Him, and that He has provided a way through Jesus Christ to forgive all our sin and make us His sons and daughters, our trust in Him fills our perspective.

It lays the foundation for why I can think thanks about every circumstance in my life and express that thanks orally or in a written form.

The Right Order

When the correct view of God is settled in our mind, we can then choose to think thanks in every circumstance in our lives.  Horse before the cart 1The strength of being th(i)nkful can only come from trust in a sovereign Creator and God that is good and worthy.

His plan to make me conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, is clear from Romans 8:29. That sanctification may take me through seasons that frankly are quite uncomfortable, but knowing that He has an end product in mind gives me the grace to trust that He knows exactly what He is doing. I can be th(i)nkful in every circumstance.

“A thankful heart is one of the primary identifying characteristics of a believer. It stands in stark contrast to pride, selfishness, and worry. And it helps fortify the believer’s trust in the Lord and reliance of His provision, even in the toughest times. No matter how choppy the seas become, a believer’s heart is buoyed by constant praise and gratefulness to the Lord.”

John MacArthur

 

 

Advice from C. S. Lewis

We praise what we value

What we praise is a litmus test of what we value.  It happens without us even thinking about it.  In our natural self we do not want to praise the Lord, but at salvation the Lord begins to change us. He gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26) that desires to praise Him as our Creator and Redeemer. C. S. Lewis calls it the good infection in his book Mere Christianity.

New patterns of thinking thanks for all that He is and does begin to take shape in our minds. God initiates a process of out-shaping us from the world’s mindset and in-shaping us to become like His Son (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18).  After a time, we actually begin to direct our praise naturally toward God.  Why?  He has reshaped our thinking to know how intricately He is involved with every detail of our lives, and He has reconfigured our hearts to value how precious and trustworthy He is.

Connection of Expressing and Completing

“I had noticed…C.S. Lewisthat men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it…I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.” C.S. Lewis

It is not enough to just think the thanks or praise, it must be expressed to be completed. Like a joy that must be shared.  Like a secret that wants to be told.  There are various methods of expressing thanks:

  • writing it down
  • singing it to the Lord
  • orally saying the words to God Himself
  • sharing His works with someone else

Somehow it needs to be expressed for the completion of the thanks. Maybe that’s why we call it “giving” thanks – the thought has to come out into the open.  expressing thanksThe gratitude is unfinished if it finds its end only in your thoughts.

There is a contagious element here as well. When we express our thanks, we encourage others to also praise. Talk about good peer pressure! 🙂

Aiding the Sanctification Process

Just like human growth when a new baby grows into a young child and eventually into a full grown adult, so it is with spiritual growth.  What do you “look like” spiritually?  How would you appear if we could change your spiritual life into physical human form?  Would you be an infant?  Would you be emaciated?  Would you be obese from high spiritual intake and no exercise?  Or would you be mature in stature and strong in your spiritual walk, looking more and more like Jesus?

In Ephesians 5:19-20 we get a glimpse of what a mature Spirit-filled person is like.

Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Why not start now expressing your gratitude to God for who He is?  Not only are you fulfilling what God created you to do, but your obedience actually enhances His recreation of you.  As you discover things to think thanks about, express those things to God and to others.  You can write them down or say them out loud.

The brain responds to what you choose to think about.  You will forge and establish a neuro-brain thought pattern that not only pleases the Creator, but will be beneficial for you physically and spiritually.

So, go ahead!  Take a little advice from C. S. Lewis.  Complete your enjoyment!  Think thanks, and then give thanks!

The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” — Henry Ward Beecher

Child saying thanks with his eyes

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.

Th(i)nkful for Truth

What is Truth?

Truth – any statement in accord with fact or reality as known in the mind of God

True – fidelity to an original or standard; if something lines up with Truth it is true.

Sometimes the best way to define something is to say what is the opposite.92E02B33-75E6-4B48-9324-C3B52B40A131  Truth has no elements or shades of unreality.  Something that is true is not a lie.  It has fidelity (loyalty) to the standard. It is true to the original.

A picture of truth is when Jesus claimed that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).  He is truth personified.

While Jesus is the living Word of God, the Bible is the written Word of God. John 1:14 says that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Bible is Truth.

  • Psalm 119:160  “You word is true from the beginning: and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”
  • John 8:32 – “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
  • John 16:13 – “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. “
  • John 17:17 – “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
  • Galatians 2:5 – “We didn’t yield in submission to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.”
  • 2 Timothy 2:15 – “rightly handling the word of truth”

Truth Belt

God’s Truth is described as both a belt and a sword in Ephesians 6:14-18.  It holds the armor together but as a sword it also pierces between the soul and spirit, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

Why Be Th(i)nkful for Truth?

If we have no standard, there is nothing to shape our worldview or perspective. There is no objective standard of right and wrong – humanity just makes rules up as we go along.

Without Truth there is also no meaning, value or purpose to our lives except what we subjectively make up to give ourselves and our friends and family some happiness.  Without Truth, everything that happens in life is without design – just a matter of random fate, luck, chance or fortune. But when we acknowledge Truth, everything changes. We have a solid anchor to hold us steady.

The Value of “Speaking Truth into Someone”

snowrope-e1532456704174.jpgWhere I grew up in Norway, snowstorms at times would bring “whiteout” conditions where you couldn’t see a few feet in front of you. If a building near town was 20-50 yards away, a whiteout was dangerous. Some people got lost and their frozen bodies weren’t found until spring. So the town put up a rope fence tying the buildings together.

Truth is like that rope line; without it, you’re on your own and death is likely.  The value of having truth spoken into your life by a friend is immeasurable; it brings you back to the straight line in a swirl of circumstances, emotions, and panicked reactions.  A friend helps realign our perspective – –

“Wait!  Our God is in control.  He has allowed your failure … designed this illness … sent this financial reversal … to accomplish a number of things for His glory and your improvement.  Your pain has nothing to do with Him being angry; He didn’t spare His own Son from pain.  He is not wringing His hands or pacing around His throne.  He is looking at us right now and whispering  ‘perfect.’ You’re not in this alone. He will never leave you, nor forsake you, and I am here for you as well. I’m so sorry it hurts, so sorry, but our God is up to something.” 

Changes in perspective bring changes in emotions, changes in our conduct, and at times, changes in the outcome.  Just recently I was going through a mental battle.  Difficulties and different trials were pressing on my thoughts; I was increasingly dominated by sad feelings.  And then, I had a dear friend “speak truth” into my life.  Wow!  What a change.

Truth In Love

Ephesians 4:15 states that we must speak truth in love to each other in order for us to grow up in Christ.  This means mostly grace seasoned with salt that stings at times (Colossians 4:6) but not the other way around. If you trust a person’s love, there are few things better than sitting back together and “truth-telling” – stating the good things that are true, thankfully gasping at the bad things that didn’t happen, and mulling over our God’s promises and presence that never change.

Thank you God for being Truth, for giving us Truth, and for enabling us to speak the truth in love to one another.

Th(i)nkful for Normal

The Mistake of Ignoring “Normal”

normal walking

Last evening David and I were going for a walk to get our steps in and stretch our legs.  As we briskly moved along, it hit me what a lame person would give to be doing what we were doing. Just walking.

Movements, abilities, and the painless comfort that I don’t even think about would mean so much to another person.  My whole life is full of seeing, doing, touching, tasting, smelling and hearing things that I don’t fully value or appreciate.  Getting into the habit of thinking thanks turns “normal” into a celebration.

Different Makes Me Thankful for Normal

When I lose the ability to do something, I become acutely aware of how much I miss it.  And on the other hand, when I regain a lost ability, or when the pain finally goes away, I am so very thankful.  Getting lost in a city or travelling for a long time in the third world makes me so glad for the normal of home.

When we spend time with our dear friends who are battling cancer, struggling with an ongoing disability, living with disease, or coping with advancing age, we resist feeling guilty that “the lines have fallen to us in pleasant places,” and we become so very thankful for our “normal” life, which is actually an amazing gift of grace on this curse-ravaged earth.

When Different Becomes Normal

But as many of you know, our “normal” can change drastically in a short time to something very different than we ever expected.  Sometimes we learn that this detour is actually our new main road.  We then have the opportunity to discover things to be thankful for in that new normal.  And if the human outlook seems bleak, we who believe in Jesus have a final and ultimate normal to look forward to – standing face to face with our Redeemer, free from pain, full of the love, joy, and shalom that our Creator initially designed to be our “normal.”  What hope!

Being Th(i)nkful for “Normal”

You can turn “normal” into thankfulness.  How?  Get out a piece of paper.man writing on a piece of paper

Write down 10 wonderful things about your “normal” right now? Which of the five senses do you enjoy? What pains don’t you have? What police station, court, morgue, hospital, or funeral homes haven’t you visited lately? What extreme weather conditions are you enduring right where you’re sitting reading this blog post?  How much gunfire and shelling have been happening outside your window? How much food is in your refrigerator and pantry?

Have you ever been at a prayer meeting where the leader asks for praises to begin the service?  Often it gets all quiet.  How neat it would be to have someone say: “I am so thankful that I could hear you make that request.” 🙂 I think of what it must be like for a born deaf person to hear for the first time.  I have inserted this video of a little deaf boy hearing his father’s voice for the first time.  When his eyes show that he is aware of something new, something different, it is like he enters Narnia ~ a whole new world. If you have already been walking around in the Narnia of hearing, you sure have a lot to think thanks about.

Th(i)nkful people spot opportunities to give thanks in the minutia – for seeing rainbows in soap bubbles, hearing a baby’s laugh, smelling freshly mown grass, and touching a rabbit’s ears. A thinkful person imagines what would happen if all of this mundane “normal” stuff was taken away … and expresses that thanks in verbal or written form.

So when I am tempted to complain about doing my normal responsibilities, like shopping, normal 1let me instead be th(i)nkful for my car, for my ability to drive to the shop, push a cart, have the funds, make decisions from often hundreds of choices … and so on. As the familiar meme says, “what if we had tomorrow only what we thanked God for today?”

 

Getting into the habit of thinking thanks turns “normal” into a celebration.

 

Can’t Stop It!

Abounding Water

overflowing 4Whether you imagine Iguazu Falls in South America, Victoria Falls in Zambia, Niagara Falls in New York, or the Laguna hot springs in the Philippines, each gives us a strong image of abounding water that can’t be stopped.  Strong, smooth, steady, and striking in their beauty, the abounding flow cannot be held back and rushes over the edge.

Some synonyms for abounding: very plentiful, abundant, considerable, copious, ample, lavish, profuse, boundless, prolific, inexhaustible, generous, galore.

Abounding Thanksgiving

The Apostle Paul once wrote to new believers in a town called Colossae. He had never met them, but as with so many of his letters, he wanted to straighten out their understanding of Christ and then help them see how that would straighten out the way that they lived life. He told them to focus on the foundation:

“Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”  Colossians 2:6-7

Inexhaustible thankfulness, he said, is an integral part of the very foundation of the Christian life. In one sentence, Paul used four metaphors! The rooting of a tree, the construction of a building, the settlement of a colony, and the overflow of a waterfall.

sodaburstThe word translated “abounding” from the Greek unfortunately has no English equivalent.  It means “to super-abound, to be excessive, to go way beyond.”

We’re not talking about something mild, occasional, or comfortable here. Because of the gospel of Christ, we’ve been rescued, ransomed, redeemed, restored, adopted, declared righteous, vested with an inheritance, given a different road, a different Guide, a different purpose, and a different destination.

We need to literally bubble up and burst with thanksgiving, like the bottle of soda you dropped just before the party. The same word is used in 1 Corinthians 15:58 where we are told to always abound in the work of the Lord.

Abounding and You?

A person growing in Christ should be abounding in thanksgiving.  This is a basic Christian-life skill.  It’s fundamental.  So what does that look like for me?  Is this something that just happens naturally or do I need to consciously work on thinking thanks in order to abound in thanksgiving?  Duty begins with discipline but can end up as a delight.

There can be no doubt that God desires us to be thankful. How about trying to just think of one thing today that you could express thankfulness for to someone?

Drop.  Trickle.  Flow.  Gush!

3 Benefits of Being Th(i)nkful

1. Being Th(i)nkful Helps Us Process Life

Inspiration 1 IBM Electronice Data Processing Machine by NASA 1957

Here’s a processing tool. This is a picture of an IBM computer lab taken in 1957. The computer does its primary work in a part of the machine we cannot see, a control center that converts data input into information output. The computer is able to process information that has been entered into its memory bank. How far we have come from these huge machines to our I-phones processing info right in our hands.

Th(i)nkful is a processing adjective.  It describes a person who is processing things happening around them, in them, and to them, taking the input and converting it to gratitude.

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

We process all the time.  Mostly it happens automatically, the brain repeating the same neural pathway that we have taught it to do over and over again. Being th(i)nkful is choosing to process life differently.  That takes effort; it moves us out of our comfort zone.  It is hardest at first, just like blazing a new trail through the woods or forming any good habit, but with repetition, it becomes easier.

2.  Being Th(i)nkful Breeds Inspiration Inspiration

Inspiration has to do with being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. I have received inspiration from hearing how other people did something.  I have a friend who is always reaching out to her neighbors with brownies, building relationships.  When I hear about her doing that, it inspires me to do likewise.

Taking the mental effort to think thanks about what is going on in my life and expressing that can be very inspiring to others.  They may feel an urge to also be th(i)nkful about their circumstances. An added benefit is that if you write down your expressions of gratitude in a journal, you can inspire even yourself years later as you reread those pages.

3.  Being Th(i)nkful Is Obedience

The Bible is full of exhortations to be thankful.  I Thessalonians 5:18 spells it out starkly:  In all circumstances give thanks. Both Ephesians and Colossians, the Twin Epistles, give specific commands to be thankful.  Colossians has a verse in each of its four chapters dealing with being thankful and in the third chapter there are three verses in a row that urge the reader to be thankful.

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

                                                                               Colossians 3:15-17

canine-dog-pet-cute-fur-nose-ears-training-sitting-obey-obeying-begging-780x520

Have you ever taken a dog to obedience school?  It is pretty tricky to teach obedience to a dog.  In training, you give them a series of tests to see whether they will overcome, still obey, and do what they’ve learned.  If successful, you will enjoy the company of your canine to an even higher degree. When we learn obedience, just like our four-legged friends, we become a joy to our Father.

If we love the Lord, He says we will obey His commandments from the heart.  The commands of Christ were given by Him as our Creator for our benefit, to keep us from scars and destruction, and to push us toward a flourishing life. And He sends tests to see whether we will still obey, and with the tests He makes His grace downloadable.  Thankfulness in the good times is easy; thankfulness amid the dark wind and waves is altogether different.  We should obey, but in our obedience is also our overcoming.

So….there you have it!  3 blessings that come from being th(i)nkful:

  1. It helps us process life
  2. It serves as an inspiration to others as well as to ourselves
  3. It honors God by simply obeying

 

Inspiration 4

 

 

Th(i)nkful That It Turned Out Differently

Open Hand Principle

My husband David has an message called Keeping an Open Hand.  In it he describes how we are allowed to clutch our hand around two things.clutched hand Those two things are 1) our relationship with God and 2) our commitment to do His will for our lives.

Everything else is to be kept in an open hand.Hand open

When you meditate on that, it exposes how we often clutch things that need to be released.

Expectations, for example, are things we need to hold loosely.  If we let a dream or wish morph into a targeted goal that drives us, pushes aside competing loves, and creates an expectation that is not God’s will, we will struggle terribly if God calls on us to release it and receive what IS His will instead. Best to dream while  keeping a neutral disposition. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Fullness of joy doesn’t come from chasing my dreams; it comes from being in His presence.

Expectations

Have you ever thought back to things that you prayed so fervently for that didn’t happen?  I have. Big White HouseI remember when David was practicing law as a young new lawyer in south-eastern Pennsylvania that I prayed earnestly that we would be able to buy a large white historic house on the outskirts of town.  I even made a name for it and dreamed about how we would raise our family there and use it for hospitality.  It was a great dream, just not the Lord’s will for us.

That white house is just an example.  What about when we pray for success, health, fame, or even the salvation of others? Our desires and requests, although seemingly right, may not be what God wants for us. Maybe He will answer our requests totally differently than what we expect, or at a very different time in our life.

Romans 8:26 and 34 mention that the Spirit and Jesus Christ both make intercession for us. I love envisioning my prayers going through that grid.  I pray earnestly, but I cannot see the full picture. He can. We may not understand why He does things the way He does until glory, but we can trust that He does them well.  He is sovereign and trustworthy for me, His child.

If I turn my dreams into strong expectations I will almost chronically be an unthankful person because God’s choice is so seldom what I would have chosen.  But if I can yield my hopes to Him and leave my dreams at His feet, I will have no problem finding contentment and can even celebrate the path He has chosen for me.

 

Th(i)nkful in Simply Obeying

Zulu ladiesNurturing my relationship with God and earnestly renewing my thoughts so I can discover His good, acceptable and perfect will for my life (Romans 12:2) can bring simple joy and contentment.

These are good truths on which I am reflecting, especially as David and I prepare to move back to South Africa to work among the Zulu.  We are excited to learn the Zulu language and get acclimated to life in Amanzimtoti because God has shown us His will, and that directive trumps all other dreams and wishes.

What about you? How are you expressing your dreams to God?  Is your disposition summed up in “not my will, but Yours be done?”  As with gardening and athletics and most worthwhile things in life, His way is not the easy way, but it is the best.  And often as we grow older and look back, we can be th(i)nkful for unanswered prayers.  Our amazing God, Infinite Mind and Wisdom, has designed bigger and better plans, purposes, and pictures.

P.S. If you’re interested in a copy of David’s Keeping an Open Hand message, just email me.

 

Th(i)nkful and Take 5

Even a Child Can Do It

Take 5 3

Our son Nick and his family seem like a perfect family.  They look like they must always be kind to each other; their children are probably good and kind and share all the time.

Well, if you are human, you realize that is not the case.  They struggle like every family struggles.  There is always an ongoing fight to do what is right.

A while back one of their children developed a real rage problem.  I am the Yaya (what my grandchildren call me), and on one visit even I saw that this was a real difficult puzzle.  Nick and Julia asked us to pray for them to have wisdom and discernment, and so we did earnestly. I am sharing about this with their permission and with the hope that their story could help others.

One particular evening the anger again came to a head.  Take 5 1Nick and Julia had been reading different things to try and find some answers, and they had come up with a plan.  As Nick started to talk to his child he laid down some rules that the child needed to follow when he began to feel great anger.  The idea was to help him get control of these overwhelming feelings he was experiencing.  They called it “Take 5.”

Take 5

  1. Take deep breaths
  2. Count from 1 to 10, and then count backward from 10 to 1
  3. Say one thing that you are thankful for
  4. Practice smiling even if you don’t feel like it
  5. Pray to God for help

The first two cause a person to break from the aggravating situation, slow things down, and let off some steam.  But Nick and Julia chose being th(i)nkful as the exercise that tends to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).  Forcing yourself into a thought-search for positive things tends to eat the stuffings out of anger.

Take 5 has helped tremendously!  Not only has it helped their child control his anger outbursts much better, but also the parents, and grandparents (!) have benefited from this exercise.  It is simple enough for a young child to implement, but effective enough for anyone, young or old. Hearing this little guy pray to God for help is so inspiring. We, too, can pray to God for help and He hears and answers us.

After a season of their child experiencing victory, Nick and Julia happened upon a candy bar that was called Take 5.  🙂  Take5One evening their little guy was allowed to stay up after the others had gone to bed, and just Daddy, Mommy, and the little victor each got to enjoy a Take 5 bar. Hearing about this made my heart smile.

You Choose Th(i)nkfulness

Just like a little child seeking to get control over his or her emotions and choosing one thing that they are thankful for, we as adults can combat both the flurry and fury of negative emotions by choosing to be thankful. It requires a choice.

So, I shared the Take 5 concept with a friend recently and within a day she texted me that she had put it to use. At the end she commented, “Take 5 is not just for 4-year-olds!”

Thanks requires choice.