The Power of Reflection

Being Hijacked at Gunpoint

When we moved to South Africa to help plant a church in 1995, Johannesburg was a war zone with more than a thousand car hijacking per month at gunpoint.  A year later it was my turn.  My 4-year-old daughter Elly and I were held up in a hijacking attempt in our own driveway on a Friday night.

I can still see clearly the man with the pistol, his two accomplices flanking both sides of the car wanting to steal our vehicle.  It was awful.  I scolded him from inside the locked car and laid on the horn.  No help came.  It was truly a miracle that we were not both shot dead right there in our driveway, but it was not our time to go.  We survived.

But when you experience trauma, the trauma is not over with the experience.  I had to relive it a thousand times, retell the story a thousand times.  This compulsive reflection backward on traumatic incidents opens up a huge key to the discipline of being th(i)nkful.  Your reflection can make the original incident better or worse.

Objective Experience vs. Subjective Experience

I stumbled over an interesting concept recently while reading The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor.  He shares how there are many ways to help promote happiness in our lives.  Oddly enough, happiness does not come from outside stimuli but is built from within our brains depending on how we shape our brain’s neural pathways.  We can create happiness even within difficult circumstances.  His use of the term “post-traumatic growth” especially fascinated me.

fullsizeoutput_11efWhen a person goes through a traumatic experience, that person experiences the happening objectively at first.  But the later subjective re-experiencing of the happening is what I want to focus on.  We relive notable experiences many, many times.  It is in this subjective replay of the original experience where the key lies.  You can choose how you relive an experience.

My Own Battle

As I reeled through my own subjective re-experiencing of the hijacking over and over, one of the keys to healing was to rehearse my gratitude for how God helped me through every part of that test.

  • God had prepared me earlier in the day by rehearsing a lot of verses about fear with a girl I was counseling;
  • Neither Elly nor I were touched, hurt, shot, or killed;
  • They didn’t get our car (that time);
  • We had just filled up the car – they didn’t steal a car with a full tank!
  • We had a short-term missionary’s bags in the back – they didn’t steal a car with a luggage bonus!
  • God caused them fear and confusion when our gate started to close on its timer;
  • Elly and I got in the house and locked up while they were regrouping;
  • Although they jumped the wall and tried to get in, they never did;
  • We were privileged to be attacked by the evil one because God was transforming the lives of people through the gospel;
  • We had a sense that God was right there with us.

God’s grace in helping me to be th(i)nkful as I reflected on the trauma provided me with post traumatic growth.  My faith-walk with the Lord actually grew stronger.

A Challenge

a simple thank you 2As we leave 2018 and move into the brand new year of 2019 in a few days, I would like to challenge you to make a simple “thank you” part of your living.  As you process daily things, as well as work through things of the past, insert a simple “thank you.”  Let God help you to develop eyes to see not only all His blessings, for which you can be grateful, but also to see His designs in the dark places, because He is there too.  And having His hand hold you through a valley of shadows is a cause for deeper gratitude as you get to know His ways, and heart, and character, and purposes more deeply.

At first you may feel awkward and clumsy in how to express this thankfulness, but don’t give up.  Keep on forging that pattern of looking for things to think thanks for.  It will bring a cupboard full of blessings for you.  Just image this time next year reading through a notebook of daily things that you were th(i)nkful for.  I can promise you that you will be edified and encouraged. Life will serve you hard things in 2019, no doubt, but as you move those things through the sieve of giving thanks to God for everything, you will grow.

“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, A Simple Thank Youwho has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”  Colossians 1:11-12

Your Scroll

Whose Birthday Is It?

I remember one Christmas busying about in preparation for the holidays when I explained to our son whose birthday we were celebrating.  Christmas ScrollHe posed the question that more than a few Christian kids have asked: What were we giving to the One who had the birthday?

To have something physical to give Jesus, we cut out a paper heart, wrapped it,  and placed it under the tree.  Like the song goes…”I’ll give Him my heart.”

That’s a good beginning for kids.  But how about you?  How about actually giving Jesus a gift this Christmas that you know He will really love?  But hold on.  Let me tell you a story first.

Writing Down the Value of Others

Years ago I was told this interesting story. It influenced me to the point that we actually did this on a family get-together and our adult kids were really impacted.  Maybe you could try it this year:

You give everyone in the group a piece of paper.  Ask them to write the names of everyone in the group down the left side leaving space after each name.  Next, you ask them to write down one characteristic they appreciate about each person they have listed.

After everyone is finished, collect the papers.  Cut the papers to separate the names and their appreciation notes from other names with their notes.  Then compile all the appreciation notes of one person into a pile, and give that person their pile.

Watch the eagerness, and sometimes unbelief, on their faces.  Tears may come. Take some time to go around the room and let each person read the comments that were written about them.

It may seem like a small thing to do, but it is amazing how many will want to save those little papers.  In the story I heard, one person put his papers in his wallet and when he died years later they found them on him.  Another person put the notes in her diary, others in a safe place of memories.

Writing Down God’s Value on a Scroll

So, back to the gift idea.  How about this Christmas giving a th(i)nkful gift to the Lord in writing down “a scroll of thanks.” You can do this by yourself or do it together as a family or as a group gathered at a Christmas party.

Christmas Scroll 1Take a piece of paper. Give careful thought and write out five characteristics that you love about your God. Take your time and use words that describe the attribute well.  Next, write out five things that He has done this year for which you’re thankful.

 

So, five about who He is, and five about what He has done.  Roll up the paper, tie it with a beautiful Christmas ribbon, and put it under the tree.  This is an actually physical gift that you can give to the Lord on the day we celebrate His birthday.

Merry Christmas!

A Merry Christmas to all of you from South Africa where summer is really heating up. May the Lord give you the grace to be truly th(i)nkful this holiday season for His coming, His presence, His meticulous Providence, and His embarrassing goodness to us.  We are most blessed!

It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35

Christmas Scroll 6

Th(i)nkful for Death Bringing Life

Sometimes Fire is Necessary

Fire necessaryDid you know sequoias rely on fire to release the seeds from their cones? Those same fires burn off ground debris exposing soil in which seedlings can take root, open forest canopies through which sunlight can reach young seedlings, reduce competition, recycle nutrients into the soil.  Sometimes, fire is necessary.

The largest tree in the world by volume is the General Sherman, a giant sequoia boasting a total of 52,508 cubic feet of wood.  At 2,100 years old, it weighs 2.7 million pounds, is 275 feet tall, and has a 102-foot circumference at the ground. It has branches that are almost 7 feet in diameter.

This incredible creative masterpiece needed fire to give it a start.  Fire is one of our greatest tools; fire is one our most destructive enemies.  Californians are all too familiar with forest fires recently and the destruction that’s left in their paths. It almost feels sacrilegious to find benefits from wildfires.

But don’t miss the point. Too often we are only thankful when things are going well or at least when there are no significant problems.  However, it is profitable to us to ponder that often “fire” is necessary for cleansing, for renewal, for the creation of great masterpieces.

Death May Bring Forth Much Fruit

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  John 12:24fire necessary 5

In a few short weeks we are celebrating the birth of Jesus the Messiah. I am continually amazed by the ironies of His coming. The Creator entering creation; piercing time and space to become pierceable. Immutable character in mutable form. Omnipotence with newborn skin wrapped in a blanket. Mary speaking to the One who spoke the universe into existence, not fully understanding that He was born to die so that we might be reborn and never die.

A week after that silent night, Simeon’s words (Luke 2:35) made it clear – a fire was coming! Truly great novels and plays all have dark chapters; for there to be a triumph, there must be internal or external foes and dark times. And there is nothing so riveting in literature as an innocent, because of love, dying in the place of one who is guilty.

Your Fires

When we experience a “fire” in our lives, we must process the grief with thanksgiving.  It is in this process that revitalization and growth can occur. As we accept God’s sovereignty in our lives and think thanks in whatever circumstance, forestfire-growth.jpegnew fresh growth will slowly happen.

There are purposes for pain and suffering that we may have no idea of.  We cry out to our God that we are so overwhelmed and at the end of our rope. Although the challenge to trust and think thanks seems so beyond what we are capable of doing, that is the way of hope, the way of birth after death.

As time unfolds we may understand more, but only when we are face to face with our Creator will we fully comprehend.

So that the tested genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  I Peter 1:7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sacrifice of Praise

Praisegiving

On the fourth Thursday of November Thanksgiving depositphotos_170113010-stock-photo-family-having-holiday-dinnerAmericans celebrate Thanksgiving. In 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Praise serves us as both a verb and a noun.

  • Verb: to express warm approval or admiration of
  • Noun: the expression of approval or admiration for someone or something; the expression of respect and gratitude as an act of worship.

Thanksgiving 1It is interesting to note that President Lincoln proclaimed that thanks and praise be directed to God.  He recognized that it wasn’t enough for us to just voice our thanks for each other and for things, but it needed to be to our Creator Father who gave us life.  We need to remember to be thankful to, not just thankful for.

Sacrifice Is Proportionate To Worth

In Bible times, believers gave up the use and enjoyment of a spotless animal each year to have it killed and offered up as a sacrifice to God.  Pleasing God was “worth” the personal loss.  Sacrifice expresses worth-ship.  Typically, we make “sacrifices” only if we place high value on someone or something.

  • An African girl will give up playing with friends and trudge through a river collecting beads to sell to local crafters so that she can save up money for school shoes.  Shoes are worth the sacrifice.
  • A man from Alabama will miss work, drive a hundred miles to pick up friends and go to a stadium to sit in seats that cost $200 each to watch a single game played by their favorite sports team.  The thrill of the game is worth the sacrifice.
  • Family will spend time, money, and energy to get together for the holidays. Why? Being together with those with whom we have deep soul-ties is worth the sacrifice.

By Him therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name.” Hebrews 13:15

pray-e1542815779682.jpgHebrews says that praise is a sacrifice. Jesus’ work enables us to take our sacrifice into the very presence of God.  In having the opportunity to praise God, what would you say?  If you have a small view of God, the sacrifice of praise will bother you, and you will back out of His presence.

pray-e1542815816969.jpgOne day, people from every ethnic group will join together around the Throne and lift up their praise to the One who is worth it, far above all other people and things (Rev. 7:9-10; 19:1-8).  How cool to get a head start here on earth. 🙂  So whether it is thank you, tusen takk, Ngibonga, do jeh, grazie, merci, danke, khop khun, or arigato, let’s give praise and thanks to our God!

Hallelujah

You might even consider uttering this word at Thanksgiving.  Let me take the word apart.  “Halal” literally means “to shine” and figuratively means to boast, make a show, to rave, to be loudly foolish, and to celebrate.  Jah is short for the amazing and unequalled name of God.

The middle part of hallelujah is lu, meaning you.  The only thing standing between raving praise and God is you.  Will you be the conduit or the barrier?  Hallelujah is an exhortation – Praise you the Lord!

Structure Jumpstarts Impulse

I think we – even you introverts out there – need to go ahead and shine a little. You need to boast a bit, and maybe even carry on foolishly about our God this Thanksgiving. :-).  Many Christian families find that structure jumpstarts impulsive thanksgiving, so they have a specific time to go around the table and say one thing they are especially thankful to God for this past year.

Being missionaries abroad, we are not in the US during Thanksgiving, but we have found that foreign Christians have fallen in love with the holiday.  So we do our best to find similar foods, tell the old Plymouth story, and offer up the sacrifices of praise to our God.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!”   Psalm 150:6

thanks

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.