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.