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.

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

Deuteronomy 32:4

Th(i)nkful Looking Back

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“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

 

Th(i)nkful In The Storm

Sarah's tree storySince the Bible is the most published piece of literature in human history, and because I personally trust in it explicitly, I decided to do a thorough biblical study of the word “thanks” in all its various forms (such as thank, thankfulness, thanksgiving, thankworthy).

Let me summarize what I found and then connect it with the event in this picture that took place just last week.

Out of the 135 references I found in the Strong’s Concordance, 67 came from the Old Testament, and 68 from the New Testament. Let’s hit a few highpoints.

The references in the OT begin with the Lord’s thanksgiving offerings which were voluntary and were to express thankfulness to God in Lev. 7:11-21. God designed giving thanks as an essential part of the way His chosen people should worship Him.  As the years and the prophets went by, we can also see that whenever there was a revival, a time of cleansing and restoration in Israel, thanksgiving was an integral part.

The Psalms have the most references to thanks of any book in the Bible – no surprise there. When the psalmist was in distress, discouraged, or overwhelmed, he often poured out his heart to God.  As he began truth-thinking about God’s character and promises, his perspective changed and his thoughts were filled with thanksgiving toward God.

Moving to the NT, Colossians has a verse dealing with thanks in every chapter.  In fact, chapter 3 has three verses in a row (3:15-17), where three Greek words are used that are each connected to being thankful.  Check it out.

The strongest verses, Ephesians 5:20 and I Thessalonians 5:18, actually command believers to give thanks in all circumstances.

  • “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20).
  • “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thess. 5:18).

This is just a small sampling of all the verses I found, but such a strong foundation for pursuing being th(i)nkful.  I am cultivating thinking thanks not just for His glory, but also because my Creator has designed this thinking pattern for my benefit.  He wants me to look for the things that I can be thankful for in every situation that comes my way.

There will be times that are heart-wrenching and stretching in my life. I am to think thanks right then, even through the tears. There will be times when I feel like dancing because I am so happy.  I am to think thanks then, but that will be easy.  However, most of life will be in between these extremes, the vast stretches of mundane, everyday life, but even then, all the time, when I wake, and when I go to sleep, I am to think thanks.

I want to end this post with a story from a former student named Sarah.  She and her husband Austin are very precious to David and me. She had an eventful birthday on May 4th, a stormy day just last week.  This is how she described what happened after she left work that day:

I feel that I need to proclaim God’s grace and goodness. After not being able to leave due to trees down on the road, I came back to the house. I had just walked into the living room when we heard cracking and a massive crash. Walked outside to see this [picture above] where I had been only moments earlier. We don’t always know why God spares us from things like this, or why he doesn’t at times. But like Austin says, there are no other alternatives. No “what if’s,” or “if only’s,” we can only trust that if we knew everything He does, we wouldn’t change one thing (used by permission).

Sarah was being th(i)nkful.  She was thinking thanks in the middle of a very frightening and difficult thing.  Rather than bemoaning the destruction of her car, worrying about insurance claims, or how she would get to work, her thoughts went quickly to giving thanks to God.