Anxiety v. Hope

Beyond Hope?

If another person would look at his situation, they would not see much hope. He was, like, ancient.  She was decades beyond fertility.  It looked impossible, hopeless.  BUT…Abraham did not give in to anxiety. He had been given a promise by God.

Romans 4:18, 20-21

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.

The Weight of Hope on Your See-Saw

Have you ever pictured your emotions on a see-saw as life goes by?  On the one side you have the weight of anxieties and on the other is the weight of your hope.  How heavy is your hope?

aaa see-saw-faith

Compare these two definitions:

HOPE: a confident expectation

VS

ANXIETY: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome

Which side is winning in your thoughts?  How heavy is your hope?  When anxiety sits down, does your cardboard hope launch into the air and waft down to a useless place nearby?

You may ask, “how can I possibly add weight to my hope?”  It feels so light and flimsy.

Turning the Weight of Difficulty into the Weight of Hope

Romans 5:3-5 gives us steps to build hope in our lives.

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame [will not disappoint], because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

We begin with thankfulness for the weight of difficulty.  All of our suffering is structured and purposeful; God is behind it, with His inimitable smile and His eagerness for us to succeed.  So, we start by rejoicing, thinking thanks, about our sufferings (difficulties, weights and pains in life).  God’s Word says that suffering builds our endurance, which is hanging on and doing what’s right even though we are thinking about how tough this is.

But over time, endurance builds character, which is doing right without really thinking much about how tough things are.  When you have learned character, this gives you hope, a confident expectation that God is pleased and will one day reward you for sticking with it through difficulties.  You won’t be disappointed!

Through this process, you turn the weight of difficulty into the weight of HOPE!  Heavyweight hope defeats anxiety in the boxing ring almost every time.

Some of you were very anxious about the coronavirus in March, but as the months roll by, things have actually gotten worse but you are more used to bearing the weight of that difficulty, and are trusting in the Lord more steadily.  Your endurance is becoming character, and as you please the Lord by trusting in His promises and sovereign plan, you take things in stride. Your hope is in Him, not in your country, not in the politicians, and not in the medical experts.

Confident Despite the Odds

Abraham lived about 4000 years ago. He chose to trust in God’s promises to him. He suffered for decades without a son. He learned endurance. After a while, his character took it in stride and he built a heavyweight hope in God.aaa seesaw 1

His confident expectation in God’s promises was greater than his confident expectation that he would never have biological children.  Because Abraham counted God able to do what He had promised, God says that it was counted to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:22).

God kept His promise to Abraham.  He is going to keep His promises to you, too.

Our Father is unable to break His promises to us. When He promises that He will send His Son back for us, it can be trusted. When He promises that all things work together for our good of being conformed to the image of His Son, we can rest in that. When He promises that He will give us wisdom when we ask, we can count on that.

“For in hope we have been saved … if we hope for [confidently expect] what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” Romans 8:24-25.

Th(i)nkful Boost

What suffering could you rejoice in today? How could you give thanks for challenges in your life that threaten to weigh you down and steal your hope?

It starts with one step. Think of one difficult thing today that you could rejoice about and give thanks for.  Write it down or share it orally with another person.  Get in the habit of sharing every day one thing that you are thankful for.  It will boost your hope.

Abraham felt like it was impossible, but his emotions were wrong.  He chose to believe. With God all things are possible and He keeps His promises.aaa seesaw

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?  Numbers 23:17

Anxieties Dissolve

A Cabin Called Prayer

A Blog on Hiding Places 1

The warm welcoming glow emanated from the windows. It looked so nice in there. Safe. Clean. Warm. A place where I could get a new perspective, His grid, on what I was struggling with. In my mind, I hurried through the cold and dark to the front door and knocked. The door swung open even before I really knocked hard. He invited me to sit down by the fire. Chai tea was already prepared just the way I liked it. 🙂  How did He know?

We engaged. I poured out my anxious thoughts and then as I looked on His face, it was like the confusion and anxieties started to wane.

He reminded me of truth. He said that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope will not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).

Anxieties Were Real

My anxieties were real. There were concerns that seemed so heavy and quite serious. I pointed out to Him that this was important indeed. He didn’t chide me, but listened carefully. I realized that as I was delineating my problems He didn’t seem surprised or upset. He calmly gave me a thumbs up. Hope was returning in this secret place.

He encouraged me to remember the gospel of how He had taken all those worries, all my sinful attitudes of unbelief, all my cravings for control on Himself at the cross. He had paid for all of that and He had risen from the dead to satisfy the debt. No longer did I have to shoulder the burden of being the “captain of my own fate,” or serve as God’s advisor by offering Him “better ideas.”

He now is shaping me into a new person. He is creating Jesus in Karin. I can live the rest of my days with His grace and view my challenges through His eyes.

Oh, to dream the dream that God dreams for me.

The anxiety fueling my thoughts was dissipating. When I focused on eternity and that God had everything in control, the dark fingers of anxiety couldn’t keep their grip. It fell off and disappeared like smoke. Anxiety is real, but it isn’t reality.

Yes, I will have lots of trouble here in this earthy life. God has warned me it is coming. He also has exhorted me that I am to run to Him with my anxiety and immerse it in gratitude and He will replace it with supernatural peace (Phil. 4:6-7).

How to Run to the Secret Place

I am talking about a ‘secret place’ in your thoughts, a little cabin called prayer. You can be right in the middle of a huge crowd and still duck into your ‘secret place.’  It is a deliberate choice to abide in our Lord and think His thoughts. It is being renewed in your mind. A Blog on Hiding Places 2

We are happier and healthier when we frequently excuse ourselves from our current rooms of busyness and fretting and talk to Him by the fire in the ‘secret place.’ As you spend time with the Most High, He gently restores a correct view of your present circumstances.

“So it doesn’t matter if you are struggling with pornography, anger, bitterness and resentment, or any number of other sinful habits. You do not find true freedom from those things from simple willpower or knowledge.

It is when you submit your heart to God’s Spirit and walk with Him that you will begin to take off the works of darkness and put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14). As you celebrate Him and grow in your wonder of Him, alone and in community with other believers, you will find the old sinful characteristics losing their appeal, and new godly character beginning to take shape.”

A Blog on Hiding Places 3

You are a hiding place for me; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with shouts of deliverance.  Selah.  Psalm 32:7

Here is a good article to fight anxiety:

Strategies To Fight Well, by  

(Click on Jim Newheiser’s name to get the link to the article)

The Infection of Anxiety

Most Popular Bible Verse

Kelly Smith of our team here did some research and learned the Bible verse most Googled in 2019. Can you guess what it was?

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

anxious?No surprise. It will probably be the most popular verse for 2020 as well! Humans are typically anxious people. Do any of these words describe you?

Uneasiness, concern, care, worry, doubt, tension, alarm, distress, suspicion, angst, apprehension, misgiving, suspense, nervousness, disquiet, trepidation, foreboding, restlessness, perturbation, watchfulness, fretfulness, disquietude?

We struggle greatly in this area. If we are unable to control specific areas of our life, there is a compelling invitation to partake in anxious thoughts.

No wonder God compares us to sheep. Sheep believe that if there is a change, it will almost certainly be bad. Only sameness with a trusted shepherd allows them to lie down in green pastures. David said (Psalm 23) that our Shepherd is so powerful and trustworthy that we can pass through valleys of the shadow of death and fear no evil because He is with us!

Uncertain Worse Than Bad

The way we view uncertainty while continuing to move forward is called “ambiguity tolerance.”  Good leaders have to have high ambiguity tolerance as they move people forward to a “preferable future” that is far from certain. That’s why they are leaders. Regular people struggle with changes to the norm. We don’t do well with deviations from our daily routine, workplace, and normal companions. And now, enter Covid-19.

The new coronavirus at present has caused over 15 000 documented deaths worldwide (in a few days this number will sound wonderfully low). Just a few months ago no one really spoke about a coronavirus, now everyone talks about it. Countries and economies are shutting down to isolate and try to prevent spreading. Schools, church meetings, non-essential jobs, concerts, sports, and any large gatherings have been cancelled or greatly restricted.

In a matter of a few weeks our world has changed. There is so much fear, and even worse than what we see that is bad is the uncertainty about the future; our health, our finances, our food, our security.

But our God has not changed.

Relief – Your Importance

How can we find relief? It feels like we are caught up in a never ending web. We think we are starting to get on top of things, and then we hear of something new that sends us flying into the anxiety abyss. 😦

I have good news.

There is a way out.

The Lord will not test us above what we are able (1 Corinthians 10:13). He promises to guide us through the temptations to be anxious, if we will let Him.

He says, “Look at the birds.” You can consider sparrows that are everywhere on earth. You can pick out your favorite bird nearby – one of ours is the European Bee-eater [pics] – and ponder the importance of that little one to God.

 

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 6:24-25

He knows everything that you are anxious about. He loves you. These difficulties and challenges that plague you are not without reason. You are being shaped by them.

Relief – Your Connection

In this heat of the trial of the unknown, there is a prescription from our Father.

If you have reconciled with God, then you can call out to Him with your angst and worries, and accompany your requests with thanksgiving, He will pour over you supernatural peace. Peace that will fill your entire being and guard your emotions and your mental thoughts. That is a promise that He makes to us in Philippians 4:7 and He never ever goes back on His promises.

If there is unfinished business between you and your Creator, you must deal with it. Get things sorted out. This is not the time to delay!

He will direct your path, whether staying home here or going home to the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-9). In either case, it’s going to be ok. His ‘ok’ should be your ‘ok.’

Relief – Being Th(i)nkful

How about getting a piece of paper right now and writing down all your concerns before the Lord. Then connect each item with thanksgiving. Yeah I know, at first it feels impossible, but power through. Discover just a few things that you can give thanks for in the middle of the test.

My Thinkful List for Covid-19:

  1. The virus has a ‘wake-up’ element for humanity
  2. The virus is humbling the arrogance of nations and of scientism
  3. Around the globe, we are unified in a strange sense
  4. People become aware of how we affect each other
  5. Families are spending quantity and quality time together
  6. Prayer is becoming more popular
  7. People are talking about God and the afterlife
  8. As we prepare ourselves for harder times, we take stock and shift priorities
  9. The brokenness of the earth makes us eager for heaven
  10. Turns up the volume on the need to share the Good News of Christ

anxious 3

How about letting these words describe you:

Security, confidence, relief, assurance, serenity, contentment, calmness, tranquil, halcyon, untroubled, unruffled, mild, temperate, restful, composed, sedate, peaceful, amicable, irenic, collected, gentle, sober-minded, steady, genial, equable. 

“Thanking in the midst of a trial is the intentional exercise of a spiritual muscle, a choice to believe Him instead of our circumstances or feelings.”

Debbie Willoughby

Anxiety Knocking

Anxiety Knocking

The call came right after Katie got back from her lunch break.  The health technician informed her that there were some abnormalities that were discovered in her last scan and that the doctor would like her to come in at her earliest convenience.

She could feel the anxious thoughts knocking. blog on knocking 1They were crowding in and piling on, one over the other. It felt impossible to stop them. It was like a rushing flood of water rising by the second.

  • “Do I have cancer?
  • How much time do I have?
  • What will my family say?
  • Is it going to hurt a lot?”

Activity in My Thinking

Although it happens so quickly, we have a choice in how we respond to a surge of anxious thoughts. Here’s a chart shared by my friend, Kimberly Yoder.

blog on knocking 2

Thinking is the key!

You are either thinking lies or thinking truth. The tricky part is that thoughts fire quickly and are difficult to separate.

Your thinking begins to affect your desires. You find yourself desiring comfort, control, or to please people. It may not make sense to you at all, but it’s happening nonetheless.

Not only does your thinking affect your desires, but the desires quickly in turn begin to affect your behavior. It’s bound to happen. You express on the outside what is happening on the inside.

Finally the emotions follow in tow. They are more easily noticed. 🙂

In this scenario the phone call presented an invitation to allow anxious thoughts to permeate. Anyone would have concern, no doubt, receiving information of that manner, but there is another way we can choose to process the vacuum of ambiguity that follows such a call. We can choose to think truth (Philippians 4:8).

The Problem of Pondering and Projecting

You may say that the truth is that there are abnormalities and something is amiss in Katie’s body. Yes, that is true. Anxious thoughts usually start with basic information that is true, but they don’t stay there. The anxiety moves on into pondering all of the ‘what if’s.’  Those things are not necessarily true. And anxiety doesn’t stop there. It projects possible outcomes and fears that could be realized, and the tears begin to flow. Now we are dealing with outright falsehoods that have not taken place.

It is a delicate job to discover and unpack “lies” that influence our thinking.blog about knocking 5

The Deceiver is exceptional at suggesting lies that seep into our thinking. Remember how he did it in the Garden of Eden?

  • Has God really said?
  • God doesn’t really want your best.
  • God can’t be trusted.

He loves to sow doubt about the character of God.

How do you unpack hidden lies and deceit that have burrowed deeply into your thinking?  God, through His Word and His Spirit, can help decipher what you are thinking.

 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

When we discover ‘lies’ we are thinking about, we need to remove them and replace them with truth from God’s Word.

Alert Response

Katie pursues truth in this thought-test. Yes, she might have a medical problem. Yes, God is completely aware of all that is happening in her body. Yes, God loves her so much and is trustworthy. Yes, God has things He intends to do in her and through her, no matter the outcome.

She grabs her Bible and begins to search for and actively meditate on God’s truth and to give thanks for the promises she has in Christ.blog about knocking 4

  • God says in Psalm 139 that He has all our days numbered when as yet there was none of them.
  • God has promised to never leave me nor forsake me.  Hebrews 13:5-6.
  • God will use whatever He allows in my life to make me more like Jesus, His Son. Romans 8:28-29.
  • I Corinthians 10:13 gives me the assurance that He has checked the test and will make sure that I can somehow make it.
  • We can give thanks for the things above, trust Him, and begin to look for His fingerprints present. Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:15-17; I Thessalonians 5:18.

The positives help balance the possible negatives; the loving and meticulous providence of God counters the ambiguity. The whole concept of th(i)nkful centers on what you are thinking. There is no way you can be thankful unless you are first thinking the thanks. Somehow it evades us that what goes on in our thoughts affects who we are and what we do – keep a guard on your heart because everything in life flows from it (Proverbs 4:23).

Are you kicking out lies?

Kick out the unwelcome lying thoughts and instead welcome in the thoughts that are true.blog on knocking 6

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)

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?

 

 

 

 

Choose to Think

How Many Thoughts Do You Have a Day?

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

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

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

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

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

So How Do You Spend Your 60 000?

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

I find that convicting and inspiring at the same time!

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

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

Retraining the Mind

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

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

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

A Th(i)nkful Journal

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

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

Example of Being Th(i)nkful

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

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

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

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

Th(i)nkful 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 Looking Back

IMG_7764

“Pilgrim’s Rest” is a common house with an uncommon use: it gives missionaries a place to rest as they prepare to leave Atlanta for foreign fields, and it is the initial landing spot for missionaries as they reenter America for the first time in several years. Although it blends in with homes in the subdivision, this house sleeps 16 people!

David and I work with a mission north of Atlanta called Biblical Ministries Worldwide (BMW), which designed and built Pilgrim’s Rest.  Our missionaries can stay there for free.  Imagine the languages and stories it has heard!  Imagine the intense thoughts and emotions of those who have only tried to sleep there as they’re on the cliff of cultural transition!  There are many scenes in those rooms that only the Lord knows about.

On Thursday a number of us did a deep cleaning of the upstairs in preparation for our Candidate School starting next week.  As I was cleaning the front bedroom (the window with black shutters in the picture), vacuuming behind the bed and dusting the blinds, my mind went back 8 years to when David and I slept in that room.

It was a difficult time for me.  Our daughter Stephanie had just married, and David and I were leaving shortly for Africa without any of our kids. Two were married and two were working in the States for the summer to save for college bills. I realize now that my challenges were not that difficult. Many have gone through much worse scenarios than what I was facing. Nevertheless, I felt like I was going through a crisis. I remember sitting on the floor in that room and crying so hard that my whole body was shaking, telling David that I didn’t think I could go on.

You have been uniquely crafted for a reason and purpose. Hang on through the surgery of the soul and call out to God for comfort and peace.

When you face trying times, it is good to have a list of truths tucked away in your Bible to meditate on.  I challenge you to formulate such a list.  Just to get you started, here are some ideas:  God is God, and I am not.  I have been uniquely crafted for a reason and a purpose. I must hang on to God’s trustworthy and loving character as He does surgery on my soul to remove things that would hinder my effectiveness.  God does not waste pain.  He is developing something in me.  His Son went through pain for a greater good.  He is trustworthy.  He can be fully leaned on, although it hurts.

The Lord did not leave me on that floor shaking and crying, He comforted me and poured courage into me to get up and move on.  I found enough grace to take the next step. He was and is faithful to provide enough strength to fulfill His will for me.

The beds at Pilgrim’s Rest have been slept in thousands of times each year. Most fascinating is when there is an interchange of missionaries from different continents that can connect and converse over a meal only to leave the next day and never see each other again.

It felt good, and in a way sacred, to work hard in cleaning that room.  It is a special place for uniquely called people in a crucial time of transition.  May the next person who sleeps in that bed be comforted that God is sovereign in all He does.  And that He remembers. This life is a vapor and soon we will be with Him.

Why Th(i)nkful?

BeautyBeauty can take your breath away. Soft hues of color and reflection in the water have a calming effect on our souls. This scene is from Northland International University, a beloved place in my heart.  It is a remote location in Wisconsin close to the border of Canada.  It snows a lot there.  Living in this place was very similar to where I grew up in Brumunddal, Norway.  The ground stays covered with snow from late November to mid-April.

This picture also represents great sorrow for me.  Sorrow that took my breath away.  Northland closed in 2015. Our expectations to teach and serve at this university for the remainder of our years were destroyed.  We planned one way, but God directed a different way.  God is God, and I am not.

Here in beautiful, yet breathtaking sorrow that God ordained, th(i)nkful was birthed.

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.

I choose to trust in your sovereignty, God. Because You have promised that You will never forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), and the fact that life is a vapor (James 4:14), I can, through Your help, think thanks about even the saddest things in my life.

  • Northland served its purpose
  • David and I had the privilege of developing so many relationships for the short time we served there
  • Sometimes wonderful things have to be birthed out of very difficult origins
  • God is writing the story, not me
  • Bjorkeli, the name we gave our little cottage up there in the northwoods, will always be such a sweet memory

I do not know what you are dealing with at the moment.  Maybe you are doing just fine.  Maybe you are not moving through any specifically trying times at all.  Maybe you are not doing well and struggling to cope. In all circumstances, give thanks. All.

photo credit to Kevin Moses