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

 

 

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.

 

Th(i)nkful and Take 5

Even a Child Can Do It

Take 5 3

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

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

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

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

Take 5

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

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

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

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

You Choose Th(i)nkfulness

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

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

Thanks requires choice.  

Th(i)nkful Repels Grumpy

Natural Forces

Don’t you love how fast little round wheels can make you go on a skateboard?

There is another natural force that also interests me.  When you put two magnets together, one side attracts and one repels.  That is just the way it is.  I love being able to take advantage of something that just is because God put it into nature.

One of the advantages of being th(i)nkful is that it naturally repels complaining.  When grumpy meets th(i)nkful, they repel each other.  repelling 3In other words they are not good bedfellows. One has to leave.

When you choose to think thanks about every circumstance in your life, whether those circumstances are positive, neutral, or negative, you are creating a natural repellent to ingratitude and complaining.

When our kids were little, I would teach them the ABC’s of Scripture memory.  We had a verse for every letter of the alphabet.  I can still quote those verses as we drilled them often into our minds.  RepellingThe ‘D’ verse was “Do all things without murmuring and disputings.” (Phil. 2:14).

Complaining and murmuring seemed to come very easily to young children, and well, for that matter, to not so young children. In fact, even as adults, most of our problems seem to be rich people problems. “I lost my iPad, or our dryer just died, or we muddied our really good track shoes, or I didn’t get to the sale on time.” We are blessed to even having such problems.

Choosing to think thanks about whatever it was that initiated the complaining had a way of expelling the ingratitude.

Choose to be Thankful

Really, it is not that hard.  Just choose to be thankful! Repelling 1You refuse to think the grumpy thoughts of complaining and instead exercise your will to think thanks about whatever is in front of you.

The beautiful natural thing that happens is that you begin to repel the negative force of murmuring and you experience grace to embrace prickly things that God has ordained in your life to make you more like His Son.

My Own Choice

I am writing this to stimulate you to think thanks, but I’ll let you in on a secret.  I need to be reminded of these principles myself.  David and I have had the unique privilege of doing extensive traveling this past year and it is not over yet.  Our journeys have taken us from New Zealand to China; Seattle to Philadelphia; Kansas to Wisconsin.  Later this year we are moving to Amanzimtoti, South Africa.  Yes, it is amazing.  I really do love it.  BUT…it is exhausting and I struggle to choose gratitude at times.

So, let me make a th(i)nkful list in regards to travel:

  1. We get to experience and learn so many new things
  2. Our own view of life is challenged when we observe how others live
  3. Seeing how big the world is makes us realize how big our God is
  4. We get to taste different foods
  5. Connection with the Body of Christ all over the world is extremely encouraging
  6. We get a vast amount of exposure to illustrate lessons of life
  7. We may be a connection point for other people
  8. God gives us enough strength to do His will

So here’s to future trips coming up! I choose to think thanks and get on my roller blade.  David, I am right behind you! 🙂

Repelling 2

Simple Travel Tips

There are tricks you can put into use that ease the difficulties.

  • Plan out a clothes package that mix and matches
  • Drink lots of water to help with air travel
  • Perhaps take an aspirin the day before air-travel to thin your blood
  • When flying, get up and move from time to time to avoid bloodclots
  • Have a checklist to go over so you don’t forget important things like charging cords, brush or comb, makeup, toothbrush and toothpaste, inflatable neck pillow, headphones, reading material
  • Have a toiletry bag with things just for travel if possible
  • Keep thank you cards in your suitcase

 

Th(i)nkful Exercises

Happy Thanksgiving from the US!

Although for me the idea of cultivating thinking thanks is not just limited to a “Thanksgiving” holiday, I am still so grateful that there is a focus on gratitude this week!  In order to celebrate that, I have compiled some cool examples of how to implement being th(i)nkful.

Examples of Being Th(i)nkful

th(i)nkful exercisesTHE DAILY EXCHANGE. Every day Elisa and Nicole text back and forth things they are #thinkful for.  They have developed a pattern to spur each other on to look for things that they are thinking thanks about that day.  Both of these ladies live in a climate where a long winter is approaching and it becomes harder to feel thankful and more necessary to think thanks.  I welled up with tears to read that they were doing this. How cool! Having an accountability partner to keep you on track helps incredibly.

THE ICEBREAKER. Last Tuesday evening I was speaking to a ladies’ group about being th(i)nkful and at the end of our time together, the leader suggested that we play an icebreaker game.

Everyone got a 3×5 piece of paper and we wrote down one thing that we were thankful for.  It could be anything: a breeze in the air, beauty of nature, clean white sheets, laughter. We then folded the papers in half and placed them in a basket. When all the papers were completed, Allyson, the leader, opened and read each paper.  She did this two times.  The game consisted of trying to figure out who wrote each one of the papers. The first person made a guess. If she was wrong, the next person got to guess, moving clockwise around the room. When a person guessed correctly, the person, whose thankful item had been discovered, moved to sit by the one who guessed correctly. They now formed a team and were given a bonus turn. The game continued in this manner until all the peoples’ thankful items were revealed. If a person guessed someone’s item correctly, and that person was part of a team, the whole team moved by the one who guessed correctly.

 

IMG_3576TH(I)NKFUL JOURNAL. My friend Marni sent me this picture. She had been given a small journal.  It was to inspire one to write down one thing every day that your were th(i)nkful for. Our brains develop neural pathways by doing something over and over again.  At first it feels like you are carving a difficult path through the woods, but as you do it over and over, it starts to happen automatically.

 

TH(I)NKFUL JAR. Another idea is to have a big jar with little papers and pens nearby. As you or your family go through the week, each person writes down something or someone that they are th(i)nkful for. At a time where all are present, somebody opens the jar and reads all the papers. On a bigger scale this could even be a year long project.

 

AT THANKSGIVING. If you are having a Thanksgiving dinner this week, maybe around the table each person could give one thing they are thinking thanks about this year.

 

TH(I)NKFUL VOLLEY. “th(i)nkful volley” is passing an imaginary “ball” back and forth where the person receiving the ball gives one thing they are thinking thanks about. David and I often will engage in th(i)nkful volley while driving on a trip. It has helped us get a better perspective on how we should view life!th(i)nkful volley 1

 

TH(I)NKFUL EDIFICATION. Warning! Powerful!  The “th(i)nkful list.” In a group of people, give each person several strips of paper correlating with the number of other people in the group. Write one person’s name on each of the papers.  Then write down one thing you are thankful for about that person. Collect the papers and then have a narrator group each person’s strips of papers.  Then, have the narrator read all the things people were thankful for about each person.  This has the potential to be life-changingly powerful. 🙂

 

Remarkable Tool

The Tool of th(i)nkful

The concept of th(i)nkful is not designed to be just more written material on thankfulness that logs in the corridors of your mind. There are loads of books out there on gratitude and the benefits of being thankful. Rather, th(i)nkful is a tool that shows you how you can think thanks and express that thanks orally or in a written form, thereby obeying the Lord when He says that you are to give thanks in every circumstance.

The job that needs to be done is to carve a thought pattern that is quick to analyze things for which we can be thankful.

Tools2There are ways to build thought patterns within our minds to always be on the lookout for what we can think thanks about in every situation – I’ll call them “carving tools.”  Carving a groove – creating a mental preoccupation with thankfulness – is a safeguard that can keep our hearts and souls from destruction. There are times when it is easy to identify what to be thankful for, and there are times when being thankful is the last thing you want to be. A cool side benefit of this groove is that as you carve out the brain pattern, it becomes easier and easier to “get in the groove” – to spontaneously recognize the things to be thankful for.

Decide, Carve, and Express

The active parts of the definition of th(i)nkful are: choose, think, and express.

th(i)nkful is a determined choice to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance that comes my way and express that thanks orally or in a written form.

My trust in the Lord enables me to choose to think thanks, but it is not enough to just think it, but I must express it either orally or in a written form.  The expressing part is the observable part that God and others appreciate. That expression of thanks is to someone and not just for something.

God has issued a command: “Give thanks in all circumstances.”  We have to figure out how we can implement that command.  As with most good things in life, it begins with a choice in the heart. This initial commitment then is followed with a hundred small decisions reminding me to search for the good elements in the circumstance, or the greater good that will come from it. Each time I do this, I carve the rut of holiness deeper, and the more I get in the habit of doing this, the easier it will come for me.  But as a necessary next step, these gems of truth can’t just stay in my thoughts, but must radiate their way out of me by either something I speak or write.

Get in the Habit

Although there is some speculation as to how long it takes to formulate a new habit, most research says that 30 days is a good start for setting a new pattern.  I tend to be like a turtle and set little goals at a time.  How about choosing to begin forming a pattern in your mind that you will be th(i)nkful to God for one thing every day and express that to someone or write it down?

I had a reader recently write that in their family they have started a habit that before they pray with their children at bedtime, everyone says one thing they are thankful for from that day. That is a great start!

Changing Perspective without Changing Circumstances

I have to utool5se the tool of choosing to think thanks and then express that thanks orally or in a written form. I put on the “glasses of gratitude” and look at everything around me and in me through those lenses.  God has promised that He is sovereign and is going to give me all I need to do His will if I will appropriate that grace (I Cor.10:13).

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

I Thess. 5:18

Write it down

 

Th(i)nkful Laundry List

IMG_9059

Laundry list: a long or exhaustive list of people or things.

Have you ever crafted a laundry list of things you are th(i)nkful for? Don’t just brainstorm; write them down.

Here is a sampling of mine:

  • hearing rain falling
  • the smell of mown grass
  • the laundry of Hobbits drying in the sun (pic above)
  • the sound of eating a crisp chip
  • a child’s face of anticipation
  • the feeling I get when I do something I really didn’t want to do, but knew I should
  • smelling coffee brewing
  • seeing someone’s face after telling them how much you appreciate him/her
  • the threshold when I overcome a fear
  • Isaiah 41:10
  • chai tea prepared perfectly with sprinkled cinnamon on top
  • hope created in a difficult challenge
  • when someone is kind to a check-out teller
  • peace that permeates a space that was previously occupied by stress
  • deep joy that comes from my Creator
  • clean paper and sharp pencils
  • a good story with deep characters that inspire
  • answers to seemingly unsurmountable complications
  • a hot bath with bath oil
  • trusting in something trustworthy
  • truth
  • when thinking about truth causes fear to subside
  • David’s hands and forearms
  • sleep coming over me
  • clean fresh water
  • colors…especially green
  • love that sacrifices
  • touch of leather
  • a car that works well
  • sin confessed
  • cello music
  • Ephesians
  • Jesus
  • My Momma’s sweet face
  • birches
  • dyna mi (my feather comforter)
  • Grapetizer
  • Yankee Candles burning
  • giraffes
  • relief after pain
  • a clean conscience
  • a word of encouragement
  • singing a memorized spiritual song to myself
  • the smell and feel of fresh European bread
  • paying off a debt
  • a pleasant surprise
  • graduation
  • victory over plaguing sin
  • a commendation
  • kind thoughtfulness and thoughtful kindness
  • Joshua’s steadfastness
  • Stephanie’s thoughtful cards and gifts
  • Nicolas’ encouragement
  • Elly’s selfless kindness
  • an older woman in the Lord (not necessarily older age-wise) sharing wisdom and encouragement with me, especially how her life was changed because of scriptural truth
  • playing chess
  • my grandchildren’s faces
  • getting Zulu words down
  • when a friend finishes their life well for the Lord

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens;
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens;
Brown paper packages tied up with strings.”

Lyrics from Sound of Music

How about composing your own list and sending the 10 best to me?

above picture taken in Hobbiton, Matamata, New Zealand

Th(i)nkful for Jeff Buckman

Our Deepest Drive

What would you do with a million dollars? What would you do with a multi-million dollar company? The answer to those types of questions tells a lot about us. What do we value? What do we prioritize? Do we think of spending or saving or investing? Jesus said that your heart and your money occupy the same place (Matthew 6:21).

“My” Money – From God and Back to Him

Jeff Buckman is the owner of Buckman’s Inc., a smaller family business that God has privileged him to develop over three decades into a major provider of pool and ski products in the greater Philadelphia area. We first got to know Jeff and Nancy in our young marrieds’ group at Limerick Chapel.  My husband actually worked for Jeff a couple of summers while we were teaching.Buckmans

Jeff is a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and a promoter of His mission around the world.  Through his close friendship with missionaries, his leading teams on multiple short-term mission trips each year, and his service on the board of the mission agency we serve with, Jeff has experienced cultures, engaged in gospel outreach, and assisted in church plants on every habitable continent on earth. He knows business. He knows missions.

Ingenuity

Our General Director, Paul Seger (right in pic below), loves coffee and in a chat with Jeff one day said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could figure out a way to finance missions by drinking coffee.” There was a chuckle, but Jeff’s gears started turning. Working with Christian importers and a Christian roaster (Twin Valley Coffee), he cleverly created CoffeeHelpingMissions, a coffee company that gives 100% of its profits to support mission activity around the world.

Imagine! Capitalizing on something as simple as coffee, that people drink worldwide, to benefit missions. Although Starbucks’ claim that coffee is the second-most traded commodity after oil is not true, coffee is still a very hot item on the market and it would be difficult to find a country where it is not available in some form.

Jeff

Check out this YouTube video: Buckman explaining how CoffeeHelpingMissions.com worksJeff 3

Th(i)nkful Lessons

There are two lessons about being th(i)nkful here:

  1. We need to be th(i)nkful for blessings, but even more importantly, we need to be th(i)nkful to those who are the sources of those blessings, the immediate source being the people around us, and the ultimate source being the God who is the source of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).
  2. We need to express our thankfulness to that person, and to others about that person. Hence, this post!

I am th(i)nkful for Jeff and his desire to promote the gospel and encourage missions and missionaries. Here is a man that exemplifies I Timothy 6:17-19. Through his  generous, cautious, and resourceful ingenuity, he seeks to use the gifts God has given him to invest back into God’s causes.

It is amazing how inspiring it can be to observe a real-life person that lives out what he believes. I am eager to see his reward one day at the Bema Seat.

IMG_3804_100_1Eternity Glasses

Being a MK (missionary kid) myself, and now an adult missionary, it strengthens my heart when a person eagerly and intelligently sacrifices to push forward such a cause. He is living out his regular ordinary life with eternity glasses on.

David and I have been greatly edified by this man.  In our family, Jeff Buckman is a man that is admired for his gift of giving and his clever handling of resources.

th(i)nkful ~ thinking thanks

 

Th(i)nkful in Anxiety

1 Lofoten D

This is a real place. I know it looks magical, but this place exists. It is located in Reine, Norway. The rock pinnacle rises out of the sea and extends high into the sky.  The quaint village nestles around the bottom of the peak. What an idyllic scene among the Lofoten islands on Norway’s west coast.

Joy from a rock

When David, and the kids and I first left for South Africa in 1995, I had composed a little chorus from Ps. 62:2. “He alone is my Rock and my salvation. He is my defense; I shall not greatly be moved.” I sang that over and over again and it comforted my heart in those days of transition and ambiguity. When we got settled into our first home there, a precious gift from the Lord was that, from my kitchen window in the house that our co-workers had selected for us, I could see a huge lone rock on top of a little hill.

IMG_2536The Lord IS our Rock, and He wants us to meditate and give thanks for that.

Beating anxiety

When we feel the lure of anxiety and worry, the Lord has told us how we should process that temptation. In Philippians 4:6-8 He gives us a guideline to follow when those anxious thoughts spin relentlessly in our minds.

  1. Firstly, without any question of confusion, we are NOT to be anxious.
  2. Secondly, we are to pray and pour out our heart to Him in supplication (the action of asking or begging for something earnestly, humbly, and specifically).
  3. Thirdly, that plea is to be surrounded and immersed with thanksgiving. We are to be th(i)nkful in our anxiety test. We are to trust God to be our Rock, and Provider, and Deliverer.

Worry is self-oriented and inward focused.  Love and trust in God is outward focused.  When I dare, through the power of the Spirit, to trust fully that God is in control and rest in His sovereignty, even in the smallest detail, the peace of God will flow within me in a supernatural manner. He promises to keep (guard) my emotions and my mind through Christ Jesus. He continues to urge me to meditate on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy.

Write it down

Why not write down 5 things right now that you can be th(i)nkful for when tempted with worry!

  1. God takes care of the birds of the field and He promises to take care of me (Matt. 6:26).
  2. God will give me enough strength to reach out to others to do His will for my life and for the advancing of His kingdom.
  3. God IS my Rock (Ps. 18:2). I can trust Him to show me the next step.
  4. God is ultimately going to take me home to Himself, which is really the best thing that could happen to me.
  5. God cares so much for me that He has even counted all the hairs on my head (Matt. 10:30-31).

The Rock stays firm and as my eyes are fixed on Him, His peace, like water fills up my being.

img_1590.jpg

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just

Deuteronomy 32:4

Th(i)nkful – Producing Grace

A Gratitude Journal

Nick and Julia 1This is a picture of our son, Nicolas, and his beautiful Julia.   They gave me a special present this year for my birthday –  a Daily Gratitude Journal! In this journal there are only blank pages divided by a line in the middle and a space on which to put the date. You could use really any kind of notebook to do the same thing. The idea behind it is to get into a pattern of writing down your th(i)nkful list. At the end of the day you take a moment to reflect on what you were thankful   for that day.

IMG_2253I started doing that after getting this book from Nick and Julia. Some entries are not so full. Some entries can barely fit all that I want to record. But the beautiful thing that I find happening to me is that, as I go through my days, I make mental notes of the things I need to remember to record that evening. This goes for easy days, as well has hard days.

In the Valley of Shadows

Recently, I have been hit with a lot of opportunities for wisdom. So many people I know personally have been ushered into a valley of shadows – getting better acquainted with cancer. I see in my own behavior that, although I know what the truth is and know my responsibility to act in accordance with it, I still can be overwhelmed with sadness and heaviness in my heart. I chide myself for not being stronger. The truth is, when I cannot understand God’s ways, I must hold on to His character. I must simply “hold on to Jesus.” Let me illustrate.

Song of the Orphans

A few years back, David and I had the privilege of interacting with some precious people in Shongwe Mission, South Africa.  This neighborhood was filled with orphan-led households.  In other words, both parents were gone and there were children caring for each other.  One home with 6 children was led by a 12-year-old named Lalif. I remember being struck with such admiration and yet sadness and hopelessness.

IHold on to Jesus learned a gem that afternoon. Our group sang songs for them and in return they wanted to sing for us. They did a much better job. 🙂 One of the songs they sang was “Hold on to Jesus, Hold on, Hold on, Hold on.” I thought to myself that wow, that doctrine was so shallow.  They should have been taught deeper truths.  However, the gem I discovered was that the most important thing to do when going through horrendous difficulties and challenges is to “Hold on to Jesus.”

“Trust in Him at all times, you people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:8).

I just can’t give way to the temptation to begin to doubt the Lord’s goodness and purposes.  Trust.  He is writing a bigger story that I could even imagine.  He asks me to be filled with the Spirit in Eph. 5:18. A description of what that filling looks like comes in verses 19-20.  I am to speak to myself in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  I am to sing and make melody in my heart to the Lord.  I am to give thanks always for all things to God in the name of Jesus Christ.

“I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord” Isaiah 63:7

When faced with difficulties, these are the things I can recount:

  1. God is God and I am not
  2. This life is a vapor and we are headed to a much better place if we have trusted in Jesus alone for our salvation
  3. God’s promises hold fast
  4. The Lord will never leave, nor forsake
  5. Somehow good will come out of pain and suffering
  6. My job is to respond to hardship with thinking thanks; like for example,  just yesterday a music therapist came into the hospital room of my loved one and played her guitar and sang “Amazing Grace”
  7. God is trustworthy; He can deftly handle all my trust
  8. God will not test me above what I am able and will answer my cry to be Spirit-filled right in the trial
  9. God hears our cries for healing and will do what is best; teaching a myriad of lessons along the way
  10. I can be edified by singing; some good selections are Chris Anderson’s song, “I Run to Christ,” or Getty’s, “Still, My Soul Be Still, or Matthew Decker’s “Fullness of Joy” (Psalm 16)
  11. I can look for God’s fingerprints of grace and kindness along the way; they are there

When I choose to be th(i)nkful – a determined choice to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance that comes my way and express that thanks orally or in a written form – grace starts to spring up in my heart. It may just be a little trickle at first, but as my thoughts begin to meditate on all the Lord has done and is doing, it bubbles more and more.  Being thinkful produces grace.