The Logo of Your Life

The Th(i)nkful Logo

It’s here!!!

My Th(i)nkful logo has been up and running for a few weeks. It is so fun to see it in different styles. My desire was to have it look like an olive tree, representing Psalm 52:8-9a where it says: “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever.”

The three parts of a tree – roots, trunk, and crown – are perfect to represent the process of being th(i)nkful.

  • I have to have roots in the Word of God and the Person of God in order to trust His character when heat and storms come, and I cannot figure out His ways;
  • Through the trunk, I pull up that trust from the roots and connect it with what is going on up in the crown. That pulling-up process occurs in my thinking and meditation.
  • Then, as a result of the trust developed in the roots, and the renewed thinking pulling up that trust, I am able to give thanks in the crown, having branches, leaves, and fruit that thrive, no matter the heat or storm.

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Trust. Think. Thank.

What Organizations Do

When I wanted the logo, the graphic artist asked me probing questions about what my purpose and values were in starting th(i)nkful. I had to really sit down and think about it. Organizations come up with logos and purpose statements to encapsulate their identity, and doing this takes time and thought.

  • A logo is a mark, emblem, image or symbol used to aid and promote public identification and recognition.  When a person sees that design, it is supposed to trigger a connection and help them remember what it represents.
  • A purpose statement is a succinct statement answering the question why an organization exists. It gives direction to employees and customers alike, and normally does not change over time.

Th(i)nkful is not an organization; it’s just a personal ministry – nothing fancy. But the exercise of encapsulating something big into a small space is challenging, and can be rewarding. Here’s a thought! Let’s apply these two tools to you, to your life.

You As A Logo

If you were represented in a logo, what it would look like? Stop laughing. Be serious. What’s a little image that would identify you as a person? Would you use hands, or a plant, or wood, or rock, or a river, or a feather, or the sun in your life-logo? Maybe fog? What colors would you use? Would your logo be complex or simple?

Maybe take a few minutes and sketch something.

Your Life Purpose Statement

In the Biblical Womanhood course that I taught at a Christian university, I required each learner to come up with an LPS – a Life Purpose Statement.  It needed to be short enough to remember but also encapsulate what their life was all about.

Why do you exist? Why did a sovereign and meticulously planning God who is infinite Mind place you on earth in your time and place?

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For Jesus-followers, there are two basic purposes that should flavor everything we do – to love God and love others (Luke 10:27), and to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31) – but don’t just copy-paste those phrases into your purpose statement, since they apply to every Christian.

What is your unique purpose? Can you word-smith your statement to blend in ways in which you are individually wired or gifted to glorify God in your life? Take time with this. Try a first draft and come back to it in a day or two.  The journey is more important than the destination.

  • My LPS is : “To maintain an intimate walk with the Lord that will enable me to develop relationships with believers and unbelievers to create thirst for righteousness.”
  • My husband’s LPS is: “To walk, work, and worship in such a way as to bring about life-change towards Christlikeness in the life of every person and organization I come in contact with.”

To craft my LPS was an exercise that has left a profound impact on me. When I go to bed at night, I can do a quick check on my day to evaluate if I am accomplishing my purpose. Every day, I should be able to relate everything back to that purpose.

I challenge you to prayerfully come up with your own LPS and a logo that represents your LPS. Maybe post your LPS in the comments below.

A good way to come to the end of your life without regrets is to live on purpose.

 

 

 

Paul Giving Thanks

Our Brother Paul

Welcome to a gathering of the Church in Aquila and Prisca’s home.a blogpost on Paul's thankfulness to believers

We are excited to hear from our brother Paul as he is here and going to share about his recent journeys.  We are tantalized by the odors coming from the baking
a post on brother Paulkhubz (Jewish pita bread) that we will enjoy after the teaching and sharing time. 

I look around the group of believers gathered in my imagination, and am filled with gratitude to God for their courage and love for the Messiah.  Many of them have suffered greatly for their faith.  Many know of some that have given in and burnt the worship incense to the Roman gods. Some from this group have been martyred, finishing their earthly journey.

As we listen to our brother share, it is interesting to notice that Paul uses the words for gratitude ~thanks, thank, thanksgiving, thanksgivings, thankful, thanked~ 49 times in his letters. He valued gratitude.

Take the Resurrection Chapter of I Corinthians 15 where Paul shows that without the Lord Jesus rising from the dead, we are of all men most miserable. Here, Paul gives thanks to God who gives us the victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 15:57). Or how about Romans 7:25 where Paul has been describing the struggle over who will deliver us from this body of death and cries out the solution: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Expressing Thanks

Paul was thankful for people, and told them so.  He was careful to express his thanks to God for these individuals and clusters of believers in the letters he wrote:

  • Romans 1:8 – First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
  • I Corinthians 1:4 – I always thank my God for you because of the grace He has given you in Christ Jesus.
  • Ephesians 1:16 – I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers
  • Philippians 1:3 – I thank my God every time I remember you.
  • Colossians 1:3 – We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:2 – We always thank God for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers
  • Thessalonians 1:3 – We are obligated to thank God for you all the time, brothers, as is fitting, because your faith is growing more and more, and your love for one another is increasing.
  • Philemon 1:4 – I always thank my God, making mention of you in my prayers

He showed by example how we are to not only think the thanks, but also express the thanks – first to God and then to other people.

Am I Th(i)nkful Like Paul?

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Not so sure how I am doing on this issue.  I need to be more intentional.  I want to think and express my thanks to God first, and then to others for their faithful walk in the Lord.  What an encouragement it is to remember the godly examples of others who have gone before us or even others walking life right beside us here and now.  Paul’s example is a guide.

Paul’s Prayer for the Colossians

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Way back in 2010 our family got together in a cabin in PA. Our youngest daughter had not even started university yet.  We were meeting ‘significant others’ and the grand-babies were starting to arrive.

The Sunday morning that we were there, we studied together one of Paul’s prayers.  A few months earlier David had gotten all the guys to volunteer to give a talk about a portion of Colossians 1:9-14. They each taught us a piece of this important prayer that Paul offered up for the believers at Colossae. That is a very precious memory to me.

Here is Colossians 1:9-14:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Paul is challenging the readers by sharing his prayer for them. He is praying for their maturity and growth in the Lord, and for fruitfulness and long-suffering. He ends by praying for them to give thanks to the Father who has delivered them and qualified them for an amazing inheritance.

Thanks, Brother Paul

So as we leave Aquila’s home in our imagination and head out into the world, whether it be Africa, Asia, Europe, America, Australia, or New Zealand … or wherever you go, let’s follow Paul’s admonition.  Let’s think thanks and give thanks to our Father first, and then be a bit more intentional in expressing our thanks to others for who they are and what they’ve done. a blogpost on Paul's thankfulness to believers

Who comes to mind that you give thanks to God for in your life? What about them are you thankful for?

Have you shared that with them lately?

Change

Change

Have you observed when night changes to day?change 4

Darkness fills everywhere and then ever-so-slowly there begins a hint of difference. A little light begins to seep in driving back the much larger but helpless wings of darkness. Inexorable exchange.  Shapes become visible but are colorless. When night actually ends is hard to pinpoint, but sure and steady, comes the dawn.

If you were to define ‘change,’ what would you say?  The exchange of one thing for another?  To make or become different?  Change is a massive field of study in leadership, business, education, technology, counseling, and the list goes on.  That is simply because due to the constant motion in our minds, bodies, lives, societies, and the cosmos, nothing is ever the same.

Attitudes Toward Change

Youth tend to love change; that’s why they often start revolutions, movements, and new paradigms. Older folks tend to fear and avoid change because it requires so much energy to remember the changes, adjust to new people, and learn new patterns.

The old timers know much better what the old creature called “time” does – when an event or conversation passes from the present into the past, time freezes it so that it can’t change. This causes many people to regret the past, and just as many to have anxiety about the future.

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But, is it really true that time freezes the past? Or is thankfulness a tool that transcends time to change memories, change the present, and even influence my future?

Gratitude Changes the Present

Myriad things in this life promise to change things for the better – that’s what advertisements are all about.  But those products can only change possessions and circumstances that surround you; they are expensive and they grow old.

Gratitude doesn’t take money, family connections, or a fancy education to use it.  It is put into play one little choice at a time, and it can change your past, your present, and your future.

“No amount of regret changes the past.

No amount of anxiety changes the future.

Any amount of gratitude changes the present.”

http://www.becomingminimalist.com

There is so much hope in the thought that gratitude changes things.  It changes the way we view our present circumstances.  We can jump the track of anxiety and just start down the track of gratitude.  We can give thanks right now for what we have right now.

Gratitude Changes the Past

Our Creator, Who knows us better that we know ourselves, has shown us how we are to handle regrets of the past.  “Every saint has a past; every sinner has a future.”  If we need to ask forgiveness, He can help us through that process.  The 7 A’s of Confession is a fantastic resource to work through things.

Be thankful that your past is exactly that – your past. Be thankful that you feel regret instead of glorying in your past darkness.  Be thankful for grace that pulled you out of the miry clay.  You have changed with God’s help, and you can be thankful that He who began that work in you will not stop (Phil. 1:6).  You may be wounded and damaged … and therefore fully usable because our God specializes in broken things.  There is nothing too hard for the Lord, including helping you put your past in its proper place.

Gratitude Changes The Future

If you are consumed with anxiety about your future, come to Him who engineered it and holds it and says it’s a perfect part of a much bigger story.  Philippians 4:6-7 shows how we can pour out our anxieties before Him and immerse them with thanksgiving, leaving Him to work as He wills, and He promises this supernatural peace to come and guard us emotionally and intellectually.

Gratitude doesn’t just change the present, it changes the way we view the past and the future. Engage change! change 1 Download grace and strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in your life and express that thankfulness orally or in a written form.

David taught our family a chorus that he had learned when growing up called: “From glory to glory He’s changing me.” It takes 2 Corinthians 3:18 and puts it to music. As I engage gratitude, God changes me.  He changes my view of the present, He changes the way I process my past, He changes the way I look to the future.  He changes ME to be more like His precious Son, the Lord Jesus.

Let gratitude change you!

 

I Will Be God

 Perfection and Pride

The Story of Hope is a 40-lesson walk through the Bible that has beautiful new illustrations. My coworker and I are moving through this study with three Zulu women.  It is going great. 🙂 Today we did the lesson on the Fall of Lucifer. Fall of Lucifer Lucifer is given an incredible description in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14.  He was created by God, perfect in beauty and wisdom, had a covering of precious stones and worshipped God in God’s holy presence.  He was originally blameless in his ways and even had access to Eden, the Garden of God on the earth.

But Lucifer became inflated with pride and started down the road of self-exaltation.  He ended up not just wanting to be like God, but he wanted to be the Most High.

Th(i)nkful and Humility

In reflecting on the fall of Lucifer, I was hit with how often I personally try to be God.  I want to control things in my life.  Instead of humbly bowing before God, and deferring to His choices and wisdom in all my circumstances, I start to evaluate what I think is best, and what should have been done, and what would have been done if I was in control. I go on a little self-worshipping Lucifer-rant.

Being th(i)nkful is really about letting God be God and in humility accepting that fact.  It is saying, “God, because you say it’s perfect, it is perfect, and I will thank you for it.”  Hope, grace, and joy begin to surround my thinking as I download help from the Lord to think thanks in every circumstance in my life and express that thanks.

That choice is hard.  Let’s be honest!  For most of us, it is difficult to not control things.  Our hands must go up in surrender and open in praise.  We have to trust that God knows what He is doing.  Of course, how can you trust someone if you don’t know them well?  And this is a big key to life: know, love, trust.  We can only build trust by getting to know that person, and then coming to love them.

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Results of “Being” God

In our study this morning we read about the consequences of Lucifer exalting himself to being God.  After some serious self-evaluation, he concluded that he should assume the position of the Creator instead of being second best, merely a created spirit.  He caused the beginning of evil.

In philosophy, my husband tells me, there is no such thing as evil. Like darkness, cold, and falsity, evil is a term describing the lack of something that does exist, and all four of those things find their source in God’s character. God is Light. He is Fire. He is Truth. He is Goodness. In the beginning, God created choice. Lucifer had two options: the Creator or something other than the Creator.  He chose something other than the Creator; he chose himself, and gave birth to the un-Good of evil, becoming known throughout all ages as Satan – “the adversary.”

If anyone had cause for over-the-top thankfulness, it was Lucifer, the anointed, powerful, and musical cherub who stood next to God’s Throne.  But pride inflates our thoughts and ideas to become “the optimal standard of what is true and right.”  He focused on what he thought was wrong and lacking.  Satan did it.  We do it.

Only God is God; We are Not

Psalm 52:8-9a gives a beautiful contrast to Lucifer’s debacle.  “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.  I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.  I will thank you forever.”

Instead of trying to critique God, and instruct God, and be the God of your own circumstances … why not trust in the steadfast love of God forever and thank Him? Exercise your trust in God and revel in His steadfast love.  His Word will stand the test of time and His promises will never fail.  He is completely trustworthy.  As we lean in trust on Him who holds all things together, we can yield control and express our thanks to Him who is the true God, the right God, the only one fit to be God, our great Jehovah.

God is God. God is good. God is good at being God.

Logoth(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.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

So, Where Did That Song Come from?

There is hardly a person that has not heard the hit song from the 80’s, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” One feels inspired to sing along with a smirk, embracing and promoting a stress-free approach to life.  Bobby McFerrin wrote the a cappella ditty back in 1988 after he kept noticing inspirational cards and posters with the slogan. So, where did the slogan come from?

The “Don’t Worry Be Happy” slogan was coined by Meher Baba (1894-1969), an Indian mystic who believed that he was God in human form – the Avatar.  He was silent – as in, he didn’t speak at all! – from 1925 till his death 44 years later, using other means of communication instead. Seems a paradox that the man who coined the slogan would have such a self-exalted view of himself and bring such confusion to his followers about the origin of true joy.

In an interview by Bruce Fessier for USA Weekend magazine in 1988, McFerrin said, “Whenever you see a poster of Meher Baba, it usually says ‘Don’t worry, be happy,’ which is a pretty neat philosophy in four words, I think.”

Smiley

smileyemojiClosely connected to the ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ philosophy is the famous Smiley sticker, the inspiration for many of today’s emojis.  Harvey Ball (not Forrest Gump) in 1963 is recognized as the original creator of the famous icon.

a blog on no worries 2I remember growing up in the 1970’s (that’s me with the camera) and buying smiley stickers with my allowance in the Brumunddal Bokhandle. This was a bookstore in the little Norwegian town of Brumunddal where I spent my childhood.  So exciting to spread joy and happiness all over my school books or backpack, really anywhere it would stick! 🙂

Don’t Worry, Rejoice Evermore

There is an interesting connection between “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and Philippians 4.  Profound actually!  It is a biblical command to not be worried and to rejoice in the Lord.

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7 (NLT)

Unlike trusting in the words of a Hindu mystic, or just bursting out in a self-help mantra, we can engage in anxiety-free joy because God is in control, and He says that if we take the trials He sends us right back to Him on our knees, He will give us help to cope with the difficulty.

Thankful Even Though …

The letter to the Philippians, written from jail, is about joy (odd, eh?) – joy in God, joy in His people, joy because of what He has done for us, and persistent joy even though times are tough. When times are tough, what does this passage say for us to do?a blog about no worries 4

  • Rejoice in the Lord, because other things and people disappoint us; because He lives; because He is the blessed controller of all my circumstances; because He is working out an amazing plan even though I can’t see it; because He will take me home; because He is coming back to fix this mess down here on earth; because He will make all things new.
  • Let people see you being considerate, because we typically close off and become self-focused when we are hurting; because people will be amazed at the power that causes a suffering person to serve others cheerfully; because when Jesus returns, we should be “caught” serving.
  • Don’t worry about anything, because it wastes energy, time, and sleep, and causes me to eat too much; because it poisons my soul and still doesn’t change the circumstances, because it indicts God for messing things up; because it pushes me to “help God” and to be the savior in the situation.
  • Pray and ask for specific supplies, because He often sends trials just so that we’ll talk to Him and get used to it; because He alone can do miracles, change hearts, heal bodies, heal relationships, bring job offers and business deals, give us great ideas, reveal the real problem, and do it at the perfect time; because at times He holds back until we call out to Him.
  • Make sure you are th(i)nkful, because He designed your trial for you at this time; because He will never leave you nor forsake you; because His Word (especially the Psalms) comes alive during hard times; because He is using the hammer, the rasp, and the furnace to make you into an original masterpiece, the first time in human history Jesus has been manifested in your form, and in your time and place.

One of the keys of not worrying and being happy is being th(i)nkful.  As we give thanks, even for our challenges, we obey the exhortation of Philippians 4:6.  He promises to fill us with His peace that is supernatural and is the guardian of our emotions and minds.

Our confidence and trust in the One who has everything in control is what enables us to be able to say “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

What about using the bridge of this popular song and the Smiley sticker to transition your conversation today to spiritual things with a nonbeliever with whom you interact?

 

 

 

 

Window to Gratitude

A post on perceptions

My View

Looking out the window of our flat here in South Africa I can see the Indian Ocean. This mighty huge body of water is third in the world after the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.  What a glorious sight on most days, always different and always the same in its shades of azure blue, sapphire green, and stormy gray.

I could focus on that the sea-mist coats our car and windows and corrodes anything metal in our apartment, that we have to be on guard for monkeys that would raid looking for food, but I choose to think on the joys.

I can hear the distant waves incessantly crashing upon the shore, and I treasure the sight of it when we have been working hard in different places and return home.  It is like a balm to see the water again. Always different and always the same.

My Worldview

My worldview is my set of core beliefs that clarify and color everything else. If I don’t really believe there is a God, that will shape my moral reasoning, my politics, my view of authority, my ideals in economics, my value of human life and the environment, the use of technology, and so on.

But even if I am a believer in God and a follower of Jesus Christ, I can harbor some deep error inside my soul where, despite what I and others say I formally believe, I really believe 1) that God is far away, 2) that He doesn’t listen and doesn’t care, 3) that He is busy with more valuable people, and 4) that He is committed to punish me ten-fold for my past.

Choice of Perspective

a post on perspectiveA right perspective of my circumstances begins with a right perspective of how close, loving, and committed my God is to me.  If I go through a hardship and I look up and see God focused on me with two thumbs up and a smile, I may wonder what He is up to … but there is no doubt that I have His full attention and that He has some purposeful design in my circumstances.

If my perspective about God’s presence, love and commitment to me is wrong, it is like rubbing limburger cheese under my nose – the whole world smells awful!  I may say “I’m just being a realist.  I’m just saying the way things are.”  But I am only looking at reality on one level – the physical, earthly level.  My perspective is “under the circumstances,” highlighting a low-level reality that totally misses heaven’s perspective.

“Some people could be given an entire field of roses and only see the thorns in it.  Others could be given a single weeda post on perception 2 and only see the wildflower in it.  Perception is a key component to gratitude.  And gratitude is a key component to joy.”

Amy Weatherly

Self-Programming

Ever hear two people describe the same event in very different ways?  People focus on different things, and see the same things differently.  Negative people see all the faults. Positive people see the bad but search for and focus on the good and profitable things. Many notice a mixture of both. The way you perceive the view out the window of your life is more of a choice than you think.

You can program your brain what to look for.  When a “search for good” pattern has been forged, it begins to happen automatically.  Isn’t it interesting that you can meet a person who has gone through extraordinary difficulties and is still cheerful and radiating hope?  If in your occupation your job is to find errors, it may be hard for you to disengage that pattern and instead find joys. Keep trying!

What Do You See?

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So….did you see the duck or the rabbit first?  Our brains are amazing.  We can look at the exact same picture and see two different things!!!  The same is true for you and me when viewing our circumstances. We can live “under the circumstances” or we can use the wings of God’s promises to soar up above the storm for a few moments to get heaven’s perspective.  Sifting through the pain, trauma, and pressure, we can find so many things to think thanks about.

Th(i)nkful Challenge

So here comes a challenge to you.  What is a hard thing in your life right now?  Could you think of three things that you could think thanks about concerning that hard thing? I would love to hear from you if you are so inclined.

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Think thanks about the view out your window today.

In Beauty and Brokenness

creativityCreativity:  relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to design or fashion something

Creative in Beauty

Our God is creative.

He created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Genesis 1:1, Hebrews 11:3).  In fact, several amazing angels shouted out that His creative glory fills the earth (Isaiah 6:3).  His handiwork is everywhere we look and even where we can’t see with our fanciest equipment, from galaxy clusters all the way down to sub-atomic particles.

When I am faced with these dazzling works, I am so impressed with Him and filled with gratitude.  His creativity is evidence of His existence – why is there so much beauty when the entire earth could be just gray mud and lukewarm water?  He even tests mankind’s limits putting His creativity in the Mariana Trench, in the stretches of the blistering Sahara, and under the ice in Antarctica.  He is boundless power, astonishing imagination, and extraordinary humor.

But it’s not just out there.  He intricately and wonderfully knitted me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-15). I get to breathe today – in Him I live and move and have my being, and He is not very far from any of us (Acts 17:27-28).  I am a unique masterpiece in His marvelous creation (Ephesians 2:10, NLT).

creativity 1What a great sorrow to Him if I am just “thankful for” and not “thankful to,” as though I could chalk all of this up to chance, or luck, or random mutation, or a cosmic hiccup.  No!  I must give the credit, the applause, the fame, and my sincerest thanks to this Creator.  It is all His work.

Creative in Brokenness

But…but…but, what about when things are not beautiful?  What about when Adam disobeyed and drew down heaven’s wrath into an enduring and horrendous curse on the entire earth?  What about fallen, broken, selfish and sin-twisted humanity?  What about when well-created things don’t work well anymore?  What about earthquakes, weather extremes, hunger, ignorance, illness, disease, and death?

Our Saviour knows all about that brokenness.  One day in Galilee He had been followed by at least 5000 people who were now hungry and far from home.  He asked his disciples to see what food they could collect to meet the need.  They came up with five barleycreativity 4 loaves and two small fish.  Their solution was broken, insufficient.

But notice.  Jesus didn’t complain about the lack, nor did He just immediately “poof” things into existence.  The Lord Jesus accepted what there was and then amazingly gave thanks (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14).

The miracle followed His offering up thanksgiving.  We might take note of the order – I will thank God for the way things are, for the small good things in my difficult situation, and leave it up to Him to change the way things are!  The prayer of thanks came before the physical provision was displayed.

Jesus did this same thing the night before He died on the cross for our sins.  And He took bread, the symbol of His body, and gave thanks (Luke 22:19).  He thanked the Father for the small bread knowing that God would soon break a much more significant “bread of life” for the sins of mankind.

You & Me & the Gospel

Our God’s finest creativity, beauty, and provision for our needs comes through this thing called “the gospel.”  It changes everything.

Zoom up 30,000 creativityfeet and get a big look at earth’s story – full of creativity and goodness, then full of sin and suffering, and then full of hope because God’s restorative creativity that’s just around the corner.

Jesus is the One God sent to enable this coming restoration – this is why He is called the Savior.

The restoration begins with me and you.  Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, and then died in our place, serving the judgment for our sins, so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  But Jesus didn’t just “open heaven’s door” for us to earn our way to heaven; His death paid for every one of our sins from the cradle to the grave which, when we truly believe, are cancelled all at once!

Beauty Created From Brokenness

It gets better.  When we believe, we are “born again;” we become one of God’s recreation projects for the rest of our lives, changing from the inside out into someone more like Jesus.  And when we die, our bodies will be changed into truly amazing and immortal bodies. And one day, not too far from now, the earth’s brokenness will be changed to shalom (wholeness).

Miracles begin with our thankfulness for the Bread.  Our personal restoration into what God wants begins by our thanking Him.  Thank Him … for Jesus suffering in our place … for the free gift of forgiveness … for the chance to be reconciled with the Creator … for His giving us a new heart … for the health and strength to live your life as a thank you to Him.

HOMEWORK: Actively search out God’s creative beauty outside.  Next, think of God’s provision for your needs.  Express it.  The answer God gives to your cry for help may hinge on you first expressing thanks to Him for things as they are.

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“God must’ve had a blast. Painting the stripes on the zebra, hanging the stars in the sky, putting the gold in the sunset. What creativity! Stretching the neck of the giraffe, putting the flutter in the mockingbird’s wings, planting the giggle in the hyena. And then, as a finale to a brilliant performance, He made a human who had the unique honor to bear the stamp, ‘In His Image.’”

Max Lucado

 

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