Doing Th(i)nkful

A Shocking Hypothetical

The first “Th(i)nkful” Seminar ever was on October 18, 2015, in North Wilkesboro, NC, where my dear friend, Joanna Chapmon, hosted a ladies’ afternoon.  I explained and illustrated the skill and benefits of thinking thanks.

Then came the closing exercise.  “Each of you has just been diagnosed with third stage cancer. Now, write down on your 3×5 card three things that you’re thankful for in this difficult situation.” Stunned looks turned to thoughtful stares and slowly they began to write. A few minutes later, we were all blessed by the myriad insights the ladies had in response to this hypothetical difficulty.

 

Th(i)nkful in Action

Now, let me introduce you to Nancy. aa Nancy Krick She and her husband are walking through a valley of challenge as her husband Mike deals with 4th stage pancreatic cancer.  Nancy is an RN working for the Carolina Center for Behavioral Health.

Since they have been our friends for decades, we prayed when the diagnosis came; we prayed through the treatments; we prayed through the good news; we prayed through the bad news.

Recently, when Mike went through a difficult day of surgery, we prayed again.  The next morning I woke to read this Facebook post by Nancy:

Thank you Lord for the blessings of this difficult day.
1. The cadre of believers that surrounded me to carry the load and distract me during surgery
2. The folks that brought me bags of snacks
3. The folks that brought me drinks, change for the vending machine and gave of their precious time to encourage me with their presence.
4. Our surgical oncologist Dr. Nguyen who is immensely skilled and so very kind and compassionate.
5. The friends that wanted to come visit and weren’t offended when we ask them to visit us another day.
6. Michael’s OB/GYN who stopped by twice today to check on him ( if you want to know ask)
7. Our sweet nurse Lisa who did everything she could to help Michael be as comfortable and well taken care of as possible. We are thankful she will be his nurse tomorrow too. And NO she WAS NOT PLAYING CARDS!!!
8. So very, very, thankful for our Pastor Mike Hamlet who was with us at 6:30AM during check in and pre-op and then came back this afternoon because we were struggling and needed his comfort and prayers.
9. For all of you reading this who prayed before, during, and after the surgery. We thank God for you. You have lightened our burden and we are so grateful for you!
10. Karin Brown, we are thinkful.❣

aablog-on-nancy-k..jpgNancy is wisely putting into action being thankful in all circumstances. She is carving the brain neural pathway of looking for things to think thanks about and expressing them.

So, I’m praising God and giving a shout-out to Nancy, saying “well done!”  I feel Nancy is miles ahead of me in implementing thankfulness.  I know it’s so hard for her, and yet she is choosing to download the grace to winnow through the glass chards of broken hopes to think gratitude. She can do this with confidence because God is trustworthy and sovereign.

Doer of the Word

Are you actively practicing being th(i)nkful – giving thanks in all things? Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  He spoke with authority; the people were astonished.  Jesus ended his talk by using a powerful seaside contrast between the wise man and the foolish man. Remember singing about this as a kid?

The wise man and the foolish had both heard the same messenger and the same message in the same presentation. One acknowledged, but the other implemented.  The former felt that he knew better and shaped his life accordingly.  It was all great until the storm. The wise man’s house stood on boring rock, back from the edge … and did just fine in the storm.

Be careful of the deception that James wrote about … thinking that because we hear something we really own it (James 1:22). To know you should be giving thanks is not the same as doing it. How can you and your family create a habit of being th(i)nkful?

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

 

Singing at My Execution

Arrested by Law

Bali9Andrew Chan was one of the ringleaders of the Bali Nine, a group of Australians who were convicted for smuggling 8.3 kg of heroin out of Indonesia in April 2005. Indonesia is tough on drug offenders. When convicted, Andrew became desperate. He wanted to die, but was afraid to face eternity because of something in the back of his mind from his childhood.

When Andrew was younger, growing up in a Buddhist home in Sydney, Australia, a neighbor named Luke took him to Sunday School, and Andrew heard the gospel clearly presented. What if there really was a life after death?

Arrested By Grace

Andrew asked the guards for a Bible and began reading voraciously.  With a little guidance from Luke who visited the prison, Andrew came to saving faith.  The gospel transformed him completely.

A short time later, the sentences were announced: most of the nine received life sentences; Chan and the other ringleader received the death penalty. Puzzling God’s purposes, Andrew poured himself into ministry. As he appealed his sentence, he used the next 10 years of his life to lead over 200 prisoners to the Lord, baptize them, run Bible-studies, finish seminary online; he even started a church within the prison!

“So I suppose I’m thankful that every day I actually get to wake up. As you know, I’m studying and, you know, a lot of people might say that it’s probably no use. Look where you’re staying!  But I believe God has given me this time for a purpose.” Andrew Chan, 2012 interview

A1 Bali Execution Song 1Finishing With Worship

Andrew did two things just hours before he died: he married his sweetheart, Febyanti Herewila, and prepared a eulogy to be read at his funeral in Sydney. He was executed for his crimes on Indonesia’s “Death Island” on April 29, 2015.

But Andrew was a man ready to meet his Maker.  Dispelling fear, he led the other prisoners in singing praises to the Lord as the firing squad made ready.  They were on the second verse of 10,000 Reasons when the shots fired.

You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind …

Dispelling Fear by Calling The Name

In my last blogpost, I emphasized the second phrase in Psalm 69:30: “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” When we magnify the Lord, His hiddenness dissolves and His presence becomes more obvious.

aa Name Dispels FearBut in the first phrase, the Psalmist states he will sing praise to the name of the Lord. In fact, devout Jews refer to God only as “Hashem” – the Name. Proverbs 18:10 likens the name of the Lord to a strong tower; a person who runs to it is safe.

Angst and fear become fidgety around the name of Jesus.  They are unwelcome and ill-fitting guests in His company.  Like darkness that cannot fight back against light, anxiety begins to fade.

Have you ever sung a song that uses the names of God? Remember Jesus, Name Above All Names? My husband wrote a few more verses for that song highlighting more names of the Lord.

Jesus, Name Above All Names

Jesus, Name above all names,
Beautiful Savior, Glorious Lord,
Emmanuel, God is with us,
Blessed Redeemer, Living Word.

Jesus, Splendid Creator,
Mighty Sustainer, Sov’reign of all that is,
The Cornerstone, Daystar and Dayspring,
Wonderful Couns’lor, Prince of Peace.

Jesus, Lion of Judah,
Root of Jesse, humble Nazarene,
Anointed One, Son of David,
Blessed Messiah, Coming King.

Jesus, Man of Sorrows,
Kinsman Redeemer, scorned and rejected,
The Lamb of God, spotless yet suffering,
Buried, then risen up from the grave.

Jesus, Faithful and True One,
Alpha, Omega, Ancient of Days,
The angels, falling before Thee,
Join with our voices, echo our praise.

In the morning when I worship the Lord in thanksgiving, I love to rehearse the names of the Lord:  “You are Elohim, El Elyon, El Shaddai, El Roi, Adonai, Yahweh, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Rapha, Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Sabaoth, Jehovah Mekoddishkem, Jehovah Tsidkenu, Jehovah Rohi, Jehovah Shammah.”

How about creatively designing a thanksgiving song of your own focusing on the Names of God that dispel fear?

A1 Bali 8

Magnify

To Make Larger

Isn’t it fun to see beautiful and intricate details become larger?

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The object remains the same size but we make it appear larger by using a lens or electronic device. We see minutiae that was hidden. Tiny particles and movements proudly take their place on a broader stage for all to see.  Your life may have been saved due to man’s ability to magnify.

Speech That Magnifies

We can make something larger with our words, too. I know, you immediately think about the fish stories men tell, but I am not referring to lying or stretching the truth. I mean that we can speak about truths that people have never noticed, or have forgotten, or that have become lost in the spinning morass of competing ideas. God is such an idea, and we can magnify Him by giving thanks to Him in the company of those who seldom think about Him.

The Hiddenness of God

God is not small. But God is hidden. Can’t see Him. Can’t touch Him. Can’t hear Him. An increasing number of people in the world believe He does not even exist because He cannot be detected using the scientific method and our amazing technology.

Even Job, in ancient days, complained, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him” (Job 23:8-9).

Moses wrote “The secret things belong to the Lord,” and Solomon said, “It is the glory of God to conceal things” (Prov. 25:2), and Isaiah wrote “Truly, you are a God who hides himself” (Is. 45:15).

a blog on magnify 9God is this way by design, hiding Himself from the casual browser and revealing Himself only to those who truly dig and work hard to discover Him for themselves, like those who search for golden rocks in South Africa’s mines.

Moses told Israel, one day, “you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 4:29). Almost 3,000 years later, a 17th century French Christian philosopher highlighted the same idea.

“[God] determined that it was not right that He should appear in an obviously divine manner, completely capable of convincing all men; but it was also not right that He should come in so hidden a manner that He could not be known by those who were sincerely seeking Him.  

He has, therefore, willed to make himself quite recognizable and willing to appear openly to those who seek Him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from Him with all their heart. He so regulates the knowledge of Himself that He has given signs of Himself, visible to those who seek Him, and not to those who do not seek Him.”  – Blaise Pascal

Magnifying the Lord

So, our God is hidden – out of sight, out of mind to the world around us. What can we do?

We can season a conversation ever so humbly and tastefully by openly giving thanks to God for … whatever fits … our kids, for a clean bill of health, for our marriage, for a job, for the accident we just avoided, for the peace we feel knowing God is in control, for a confident expectation beyond the grave. Expressing thanks to God, without debating His existence, opens the door for the Spirit of God to confirm to an unbelieving heart that He is there.

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
Psalm 69:30

How do you make God bigger by being th(i)nkful?  The Hebrew word in the above verse for magnify is gadal.  It means: to advance, boast, bring up, exceed, lift up, increase, promote. It is actually a marketing term.

When we speak up and say we’re thankful to God, we magnify Him. Our words focus a mental lens on the God that others have failed to notice. All of a sudden – whoah! – there is God … behind that thing that is going well … behind that virtue you learned in the hard times.

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What Do You Magnify?

Chances are you magnify something. It begins with what you focus on in your mind. You dwell on it. You’re intrigued by it. You study it out. You worship it in that you give it ‘worth’ in your thought-time priority.

And then you speak … and cause others to push back the clutter and focus on it as well.

Time to magnify God.

Start today.

Envelop Thanks

Envelop?

The scent was faint at first, but slowly the delicious smell grew stronger as the Swedish Tea Ring was baking in the kitchen. The tantalizing odor enveloped me as I studied in the next room.

Have you ever used the verb envelop?

Envelop: to wrap around something completely; to surround, either literally or figuratively

Literally, fog can envelop a city, or a mom can envelop her child. Figuratively, peace can envelop your mind, or Christ can envelop your life. In fact, the Apostle Paul’s use of “in Christ” and “in the Spirit” has this idea of enveloping a person totally.

Envelop Your Prayers

Thankfulness should wrap around our prayers completely.  When I come to God with my circumstances or with people that I am lifting up to Him, I am giving Him no new information – He knows and has ordained what is happening.  In reality, I can bring Him two things: thankfulness for the situation or person, and a petition for His help. To truly envelop a prayer with thanksgiving, you start with it and end with it.

This is the key difference between praying to a sovereign God and asking favors from the genie of the lamp. Many Christians treat God like a genie: “Please do this, and do that, and when you’re done, I need this as well.”  There is no recognition that the genie has caused our circumstances for His glory and our good, and we don’t say thanks because the genie is our servant.  It is said that if we treat our friends like we treat our God we wouldn’t have friends. To say thanks is to fully acknowledge that He is in control and is working out a perfectly calculated plan.

So, we should begin and end our prayer with thankfulness. Paul gives us multiple examples of praying with thanksgiving.

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Paul also demonstrates how he envelops his prayers with thankfulness when praying for people.

  • First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world (Romans 1:8)
  • I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus (I Corinthians 1:4)
  • I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers (Ephesians 1:16)
  • We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you (Colossians 1:3)
  • We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers (I Thessalonians 1:2)
  • We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing (2 Thessalonians 1:3)
  • First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people (I Timothy 2:1)
  • I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers (Philemon 1:4)

Trust Foundation

One key to praying thankfully is having the “foundation of trust” in good shape. I am currently working through Ole Hallesby’s book on Prayer and he writes:

“We realize that this deficiency in our prayer life is really due to the fact that we do not trust our blessed Lord. We think that we understand better than He does when and how our prayers should be answered.”

In order to envelop thanksgiving into our prayers, we have to trust the Lord God with all our mind, soul, and heart. He is completely trustworthy. On that basis I can be th(i)nkful and agree to receive what He is doing in my circumstances, though I don’t understand the whys and what fors, and may never understand them.

Th(i)nkful for Carmen

Her life is not easy.  She has difficulties that many of us are not familiar with. Carmen Praying 1But our friend Carmen loves God and runs to Him in prayer, with thankfulness.

This precious lady in Pennsylvania is a prayer warrior for us and the mission work here in South Africa. She thanks God on our behalf and provides prayer cover for us continually.

She is growing spiritually and envelops her prayers to the Lord with thinking thanks. And I reciprocate, thanking my Lord for her as I lift my prayer to Him.

So How Do You Start?

The beauty of being th(i)nkful is that it is not hard. Even if you have not been in the habit of enveloping your requests to God with th(i)nkfulness, just start with one thing. Here are some examples:

  • Thank You, God, for the people who pray for me
  • Thank you, God, for the opportunity to trust you and your character today
  • Thank you, God, that I am not alone in my struggles, but I can come to you
  • Thank you for the access and freedom I have, through Jesus, to come boldly to the throne of grace
  • Thank you for the grace that is helping me start a new neural pathway of thinking thanks
  • Thank you for the person that shared the good news of hope with me

Why not start right now in enveloping a prayer to God with thankfulness?

Thankful and Anxious?

Can You Be Thankful and Anxious?

No!

They don’t go together. You probably already knew that, but I wanted to highlight it for you. 🙂

Research has shown that gratitude cannot co-exist with fear. It turns out that gratitude and compassion can be powerful natural remedies to anxiety.

Jennifer Miller

In Zulu, we would say that they chase each other. Ziyaxosha. adorable picture of cat being chasedThink of a dog chasing a cat. The cat has no desire to stay put if a huge German Shepard is charging its way.

What a great mental image for us to ponder. If you are consciously pursuing a brain neural pathway of thinking thanks, a natural result is that anxious thoughts move on quickly.

Chasing Anxiety

Philippians 4:6 strongly encourages us to not be anxious about anything.  Instead we are to pour our hearts out to the Lord with thankfulness. That is our part. But then our living and listening God responds.

The Lord rewards us by infusing our minds with a peace that “surpasses all understanding” – literally, a peace that stands out, rises above, and is better than normal human comprehension, thinking, feeling, or reason.  And that peace puts a shield around our hearts (emotions) and minds (ponderings).

I would call that a pretty good deal for us!  Just remember that, at times, God’s peace is so beyond understanding that others will think that we are in denial or blocking things out or moving into abnormal psychology.  But we’re not.  We’re just being resolutely thankful to a God who, in His meticulous providence, ordered things as they are for me right now.

Turning Knowledge Into a Skill

So if I am convinced that it would be good for me to work on becoming thinkful, how do I develop that skill?  You have to retrain your brain through repetition – we do this with anxiety, so we can also do it with thankfulness.

Here’s a good idea from Tanya J. Peterson:

Play a Gratitude Game to Help Anxiety

True gratitude is about more than saying thanks. A grateful mindset is developed purposefully and with practice. By playing a gratitude game, you begin to shift your focus away from anxiety and onto other, more positive, aspects of your life.

The game is an ongoing scavenger hunt. You will need:

  • The Scavenger Hunt List below (print it or copy them down);
  • Something to hold one challenge on each page 112a(like a journal or a ring with index cards).

The Scavenger Hunt List contains challenges – positive things, people, situations, and concepts to purposefully seek out and write down what you’re thankful for. Take the list and write one challenge on each page or card, and you’re ready to begin.

Now, look for at least one thing every day. Approach it playfully. When you look for things to be thankful for, your thoughts begin to drift away from anxieties.

Your Gratitude Scavenger Hunt List:

  • Unexpected down time (What did you do?)
  • Someone who makes you laugh
  • Spending time with a friend
  • Something that went well today
  • A chance to do something nice for someone else
  • A personal trait
  • Someone who is a positive part of your life
  • A cherished photo
  • A talent you have
  • Writing a letter of gratitude to someone
  • Stopping and smelling the roses
  • A chance to do something nice for yourself
  • Time spent outdoors
  • An opportunity to make someone feel heard
  • Something that brought a smile to your face today
  • A fond memory
  • An evening spent with friends/family with no electronics
  • Something that someone did for you
  • Your ability to perform a random act of kindness
  • A teacher who inspired you
  • A kind comment someone said to you
  • Someone who listened to you
  • Hearing someone laugh
  • Laughing

The shift of perspective that comes with gratitude helps anxiety because it changes where you look and how you think. It’s a way of beating anxiety at its own game.

I would encourage you to get a journal of any size or shape and just start recording things that you are thinkful for. Let this simple game be a jumpstart to get into the habit of at least recording one thing a day.

In time you may “up your game” and record five things a day. As you craft this neural pathway in your brain, you may in time even be able to see things to think thanks about in hard things, but let’s leave that for now. 🙂

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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.

Regarding Home

The Problem with “Home”

Screen Shot 2019-07-13 at 10.11.09 AMMy life in the will of God right now is a bit crazy. We have two “homes” – an apartment in Amanzimtoti, South Africa, and a mission-owned house in Atlanta to which we return twice a year while we train new missionaries.  It is bizarre to leave home … to go back home!

There are three key elements that help me feel at home: the presence of my husband, music that we play in the house, and a Yankee Candle called Home Sweet Home.  We light this candle, its fragrance fills the place, and my nose tells me I am home.

When God’s Word Finds A Home

My mind and heart are also homes, and many things live in them; some residents bring peace and others cause conflict. This morning I was meditating on Colossians 3, and came to verse 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.”

a blog on the bibleThe Apostle Paul writes that the message about Jesus should be at home in us profusely, filling every room, like that Yankee Candle.  His Word should fill and flavor our thinking, influencing what we want, what we mediate on, and eventually what we say and do.

As we are changed, we end up sharing this potpourri of the soul with each other, exchanging insights, singing deep truths captured in new songs and golden oldies, with heart-compelled thankfulness to the Lord. In True Spirituality, Francis Schaeffer wrote:

“A quiet disposition and a heart giving thanks at any given moment is the real test of the extent to which we love God at that moment.”

Can God’s Mission Be Home?

I want you to know that home can be somewhere else from where you have always known it to be. Because of the great love of our Savior, we can choose to make home where He wants us to go. Yes, it may feel a bit awkward at first, and that we somehow are turning our back on our incredibly loved extended family members, but God pours out grace for us to create home in a new place, embrace His will and, in time, even love it.

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David and I are presently in the midst of helping out with missionary training at our mission headquarters outside of Atlanta, GA.Our days are full of serving in different capacities from teaching, counseling new and older missionaries, helping with the youth sessions, serving in the nursery, recording videos for the mission … and the list goes on.

There are so many conversations with people getting ready to take their “home” around the world. At times, I feel I get a little glimpse of just how important these days are to our Savior, the Lord Jesus.

As an MK (missionary kid) I am very aware of the costs of missionary life. My family first crossed the Atlantic by boat to make a home in Norway in 1964, when I was 4 years old.  Since then we have always taken flights. 🙂a blogpost about oceanliners

David and I took our four children and made a home in South Africa over twenty years ago. In the group currently going through missionary training here at HQ, there are three people headed for South Africa, all aware of the coming cost of serving cross-culturally.

The idiom “Home is where the heart is” actually means one’s home is made up of the places and people one loves or cherishes most. As we grow to love and cherish our Lord God, we can find home anywhere He chooses for us to be, but in reality and in the long haul, heaven is our home.

I hate to break it to you, but your life will be over soon. Live in such a manner that when you finish, you will be filled with thankfulness and not regrets.Muizenberg Beach huts, South Africa edit #2

Gratis

What Is Gratis in Your Life?

Gratis: given or done for free

Don’t you love when you get something for free?  a blog on gratis 1You feel like you got such a good deal.  You received a benefit, but did not have to pay for it. In Norwegian and a number of other languages, the word gratis is actually used for the word free. You did not pay for it. It was gratis.

Have you thought about all the things that you were given gratis just today?

  1. Your body’s involuntary functions (autonomic nervous system) are working gratis – your brain is firing signals, your heart is beating, your organs are filtering, your digestive system is moving! Oh, those who have dysfunction in these areas will tell you to be so thankful!
  2. Your body’s voluntary functions (somatic nervous system) are working gratis – your fingers and eyes are moving without great effort, and your amazing lungs are breathing involuntarily until you consciously take over their function. The aged and disabled will tell us to be so very thankful!
  3. The air you are breathing in – extremely unusual in the universe – is gratis.
  4. Reading the Bible in your own language is gratis to you, though others paid dearly so that you could. Unreached people groups today weep when they first see God’s words in their own heart language!
  5. You have been offered the gift of forgiveness, reconciliation and salvation by your Creator – gratis.

Gratis, Grateful, Gratitude

It is easy to see how these three words are related. From the Latin root word, “gratia,” meaning grace or kindness, come the ideas of “received freely as a gift” (gratis), and “full of grace received and thankful” (grateful), and “returning good will, expressing pleasure, thankfulness” (gratitude). Grace, gift, free, and thankfulness are all related ideas.

We have been given so much every moment of every day, and that strongly calls for an appropriate response from us just as frequently.

Ingratitude’s Curse

“If I did not praise and bless Christ my Lord, I should deserve to have my tongue torn out by its roots from my mouth. If I did not bless and magnify his name, I should deserve that every stone I tread on in the streets should rise up to curse my ingratitude, for I am a drowned debtor to the mercy of God – over head and ears.  To infinite love and boundless compassion I am a debtor. Are you not the same? Then I charge you by the love of Christ, awake, awake your hearts now to magnify his glorious name.” (C. H. Spurgeon)

The way Spurgeon described ingratitude is striking.  He viewed it quite seriously.  He sternly warned himself that he deserved punishment if he did not express his gratitude to the Lord.

I don’t know that we in the 21st century look at ingratitude with such seriousness.  Maybe we should. Instead, our focus is often on what is missing, what lacks perfect appearance or function, what we do not like in our lives … and we highlight the shortcomings by complaining.

Although humans are programmed as problem-solvers and thus prone to focus on what yet needs fixing, wisdom reminds us to frequently step back and remember that this fallen world will never be perfect, that we have it far better than we should, and that we have received so much from the Creator and others (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Choose Th(i)nkfulness

My passion in writing this blog is to inspire you to choose to think thanks.  Yes, it requires a choice. You must choose what you think about. The ruts in your brain may run you automatically into the depths of ingratitude, or may take you simply to the next thing in your day. BUT you can start right now, with God’s grace, to fill in that negative rut and – can I actually say it? – forge a new rut of gratefulness!  I am not sure I have ever met a person in such a rut!

The harvest that comes from choosing to plant seeds of thankfulness is beautiful indeed. a blog on gratis 3.jpgIn Namaqualand, South Africa, there is a beautiful burst of glorious flowers that come gratis with the first rains that end the dry season. An otherwise parched desert produces this kaleidoscopic carpet. What a great metaphor for a dry heart, full of ingratitude, experiencing the spring rains of God’s grace resulting in a variegated burst of th(i)nkfulness.

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What free gifts of grace have you enjoyed today?

 

Your Platform

Your Platform

If God were to use your life as a platform, what would He be saying to the world?

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A platform is a raised level surface that allows others to see someone or something better. Most of us live typical lives, moving about in our daily routine like the millions around us. We are the audience. Oh, now and then we post something on social media to highlight our lives; heads turn as we show our pictures and garner comments.

But there are also times when your circumstances lift you up above the crowd, whether you like it or not, and your life becomes a platform to proclaim more intensely God’s faithfulness and power.  Usually it is not of your own choosing.  He chooses for you.  He wants to display His glory through your achievement, your promotion, your trending product, or your job loss, your cancer, your auto accident.

Of course, if your respond in a self-oriented, smugly self-glorifying way to your achievements and successes, that’s not very noteworthy and your platform grinds to a halt at a low level.  If you respond to your suffering with fear, anger, panic or falling apart, that is certainly natural and therefore not very noteworthy, and likewise your platform grinds to a halt just above the crowd.

So, here is a check-up phrase to ask yourself repeatedly throughout your days:

I am created for His glory – how am I doing right now?
(Isaiah 43:7, 2 Corinthians 5:9)

The Battleground of Memories

Let me back up for a second.  Have you ever noticed how fleeting the present is?  Some say it doesn’t even exist.  It changes extremely quickly from future to past. Just like that! When things happen in your life, the actual occurrence is often very fast. But the remembering and processing of that happening can be long, repeated, and detailed, dotted with conjecture about other ways it may have all turned out.  When we counsel trauma victims, healing is often found in helping them change the way they process their memories.

When you choose to pour the oil of gratitude into the gears of your huge achievements or your terrible struggles, your platform doesn’t grind to a halt but keeps rising.  Heads turn as they hear you throw the praise to God and others for your achievements, or highlight the virtues and lessons your are learning through your struggles.

Sunday, I had a conversation with a lady whose mother is going through some medical difficulties connected with aging.  I was pleasantly surprised when my friend proceeded to share how God was blessing them even in the middle of their hardships. She shared specific things that she was thankful for even when you could look at the same circumstances with great frustration.  That was awesome!  She chose to process her challenges with th(i)nkfulness, and therefore she had my undivided attention.

blog on platforms 3A few years ago Dr. John Piper, a leading pastor in the States, was diagnosed with cancer. He published an interesting article on how to handle your cancer.  He encouraged the reader to draw near to God and use this new platform to share with more people about the truths found in Christ.  Joni Eareckson Tada, Ron Hamilton, and Bethany Hamilton would all say the same.

blog on platformThe Power of a Speaker

Have you ever been riveted by a speaker? I have. You forget your circumstances and focus intently on what the speaker is saying.

There may be something that this person has studied or experienced that qualifies them to deserve that kind of attention. Maybe they are an expert on their topic.  Maybe they speak with compelling enthusiasm.  Maybe they are super funny. Something is holding you captive to what they are saying.

Jesus Speaking To and Through

Jesus, through His Spirit, is constantly speaking to you (Romans 8:16, 1 John 2:27). Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus, our High Priest, was one who went through temptations and difficulties as we do, yet without sin. Because of that, we can listen to His counsel and receive mercy and grace (help) in our need.

blog on platforms 2But Jesus also wants to speak through you.  Lack of gratitude is common; it leaves you at the audience level and gives you no platform from which to speak. Similarly, drawing attention to yourself, your courage, and your virtues in your triumphs and trials also falls flat with most people.

But if you listen to what Jesus has been telling you about your successes and your suffering – that they are all measured and guided by His meticulous Providence, and given to you as a platform so that He can speak to people through you – then you will realize the importance of being th(i)nkful.  When you properly process your circumstances by thanking God, you will rise above the crowd and be given a microphone for His glory (uncomfortable as that might be).

So, take a piece of paper and begin to record things that you can think thanks about in your present situation. Let the Lord adjust your eyes to begin to notice these things more and more. Express your gratitude. Your platform is being developed. Don’t push to share, but willingly obey if the Lord asks this of you. He uses us as humans to testify and witness of His work in our lives.

Give thanks in everything

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Worry

Musa Ukukhathazeka!blog about not worrying

The Zulu words for Don’t Worry! look daunting indeed. 🙂  Actually they are not really that hard.  Just sound it out (but the “h” is silent).

At age 58, my husband and I began learning the Zulu language.  For a while, I struggled with being th(i)nkful about it.  Seriously.  But now it is exhilarating to feel more and more comfortable with Zulu words. I find that some Zulu words come to mind that capture an idea better than English words do. Haha!

Worries of the Rich

Matthew 6:30-33 describes a lesson that we are to learn from the grass of the field with its beautiful wildflowers.

blaaklokkerBut if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

We are not to be anxious. The God who clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, is going to clothe us. He is going to take care of us. We do not need to worry.  In fact, He says DON’T do it.

Basic food, basic clothing, and basic shelter are pretty easy to come by, but because most of us have much more, we worry more.  We have what we call “rich-people problems.”  Think about it. We worry about the car accident, the air conditioner’s broken condenser, the college bills, the alarm system going on the blink again, the app on my cell phone not working.  We don’t stop to think that we actually have cars, air conditioners, higher education, properties to guard, and cell phones … when most of the world does not.  Perspective.

Norwegian Blåklokker

Screen Shot 2019-05-20 at 1.20.47 PMZooming up from Zululand, where we live now at the bottom of the earth … to Norway at the top of the earth, let me take you on a short trip.  I grew up in a little town called Brumunddal, Norway.  My father built a house that we called ‘Solheim’ on the hillside of Bjørgeberget.

I sometimes would walk in the forests around our home and one day came across these beautiful blåklokker – flowers we call “blue bells.”  20190516_220628They happened to bloom close to my birthday in July.  I was so thrilled to find such beauties in the meadow on my birthday.  I loved them. These wildflowers were so very delicate … frail … exquisite.

Th(i)nkfulness Attacks Worry

My heavenly Father, who created the blåklokker, also created me and you. He has got this!  He is completely in control.  You do not need to worry.  You can substitute the worry with trust and thankfulness.a blog on bluebells 2

Instead of focusing on your item of worry, focus on the character of your Creator God. He has made promises to you that He will make all things come together for your Christlike good if you have trusted in him as your Savior (Romans 8:28).  He is sovereign and completely trustworthy.  He is within you and with you; obviously you can’t escape His notice.  He is using what you are going through to shape you into “Jesus in your skin.”  He has to keep His promises.

Engaging in th(i)nkfulness drives worry away.

What are you th(i)nkful for today? My list is:

  • The sound of the waves of the Indian Ocean
  • We had Zulu class with Ignatia yesterday
  • This past weekend we gathered with believers from Grace-Toti for a family camp
  • Romans 15:13
  • The Lord tenderly cares for me like a father does for his beloved child
  • When things that are difficult happen in my life, I can be assured that He has a purpose and a plan to use it to make me more like Jesus if I respond biblically
  • This life is a vapor
  • My Savior has removed my sin and reconciled me with my Creator God
  • Our precious daughter-in-law’s pregnancy is going so well even though it had a rough beginning
  • I Corinthians 10:13 promises that He will not test me above what I am ablea blog on bluebells

Ikke bekymre deg (Norwegian)

Musa ukukhathazeka (Zulu)

Don’t worry (English)

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.