The Power of Reflection

Being Hijacked at Gunpoint

When we moved to South Africa to help plant a church in 1995, Johannesburg was a war zone with more than a thousand car hijacking per month at gunpoint.  A year later it was my turn.  My 4-year-old daughter Elly and I were held up in a hijacking attempt in our own driveway on a Friday night.

I can still see clearly the man with the pistol, his two accomplices flanking both sides of the car wanting to steal our vehicle.  It was awful.  I scolded him from inside the locked car and laid on the horn.  No help came.  It was truly a miracle that we were not both shot dead right there in our driveway, but it was not our time to go.  We survived.

But when you experience trauma, the trauma is not over with the experience.  I had to relive it a thousand times, retell the story a thousand times.  This compulsive reflection backward on traumatic incidents opens up a huge key to the discipline of being th(i)nkful.  Your reflection can make the original incident better or worse.

Objective Experience vs. Subjective Experience

I stumbled over an interesting concept recently while reading The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor.  He shares how there are many ways to help promote happiness in our lives.  Oddly enough, happiness does not come from outside stimuli but is built from within our brains depending on how we shape our brain’s neural pathways.  We can create happiness even within difficult circumstances.  His use of the term “post-traumatic growth” especially fascinated me.

fullsizeoutput_11efWhen a person goes through a traumatic experience, that person experiences the happening objectively at first.  But the later subjective re-experiencing of the happening is what I want to focus on.  We relive notable experiences many, many times.  It is in this subjective replay of the original experience where the key lies.  You can choose how you relive an experience.

My Own Battle

As I reeled through my own subjective re-experiencing of the hijacking over and over, one of the keys to healing was to rehearse my gratitude for how God helped me through every part of that test.

  • God had prepared me earlier in the day by rehearsing a lot of verses about fear with a girl I was counseling;
  • Neither Elly nor I were touched, hurt, shot, or killed;
  • They didn’t get our car (that time);
  • We had just filled up the car – they didn’t steal a car with a full tank!
  • We had a short-term missionary’s bags in the back – they didn’t steal a car with a luggage bonus!
  • God caused them fear and confusion when our gate started to close on its timer;
  • Elly and I got in the house and locked up while they were regrouping;
  • Although they jumped the wall and tried to get in, they never did;
  • We were privileged to be attacked by the evil one because God was transforming the lives of people through the gospel;
  • We had a sense that God was right there with us.

God’s grace in helping me to be th(i)nkful as I reflected on the trauma provided me with post traumatic growth.  My faith-walk with the Lord actually grew stronger.

A Challenge

a simple thank you 2As we leave 2018 and move into the brand new year of 2019 in a few days, I would like to challenge you to make a simple “thank you” part of your living.  As you process daily things, as well as work through things of the past, insert a simple “thank you.”  Let God help you to develop eyes to see not only all His blessings, for which you can be grateful, but also to see His designs in the dark places, because He is there too.  And having His hand hold you through a valley of shadows is a cause for deeper gratitude as you get to know His ways, and heart, and character, and purposes more deeply.

At first you may feel awkward and clumsy in how to express this thankfulness, but don’t give up.  Keep on forging that pattern of looking for things to think thanks for.  It will bring a cupboard full of blessings for you.  Just image this time next year reading through a notebook of daily things that you were th(i)nkful for.  I can promise you that you will be edified and encouraged. Life will serve you hard things in 2019, no doubt, but as you move those things through the sieve of giving thanks to God for everything, you will grow.

“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, A Simple Thank Youwho has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”  Colossians 1:11-12

Th(i)nkful for Death Bringing Life

Sometimes Fire is Necessary

Fire necessaryDid you know sequoias rely on fire to release the seeds from their cones? Those same fires burn off ground debris exposing soil in which seedlings can take root, open forest canopies through which sunlight can reach young seedlings, reduce competition, recycle nutrients into the soil.  Sometimes, fire is necessary.

The largest tree in the world by volume is the General Sherman, a giant sequoia boasting a total of 52,508 cubic feet of wood.  At 2,100 years old, it weighs 2.7 million pounds, is 275 feet tall, and has a 102-foot circumference at the ground. It has branches that are almost 7 feet in diameter.

This incredible creative masterpiece needed fire to give it a start.  Fire is one of our greatest tools; fire is one our most destructive enemies.  Californians are all too familiar with forest fires recently and the destruction that’s left in their paths. It almost feels sacrilegious to find benefits from wildfires.

But don’t miss the point. Too often we are only thankful when things are going well or at least when there are no significant problems.  However, it is profitable to us to ponder that often “fire” is necessary for cleansing, for renewal, for the creation of great masterpieces.

Death May Bring Forth Much Fruit

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  John 12:24fire necessary 5

In a few short weeks we are celebrating the birth of Jesus the Messiah. I am continually amazed by the ironies of His coming. The Creator entering creation; piercing time and space to become pierceable. Immutable character in mutable form. Omnipotence with newborn skin wrapped in a blanket. Mary speaking to the One who spoke the universe into existence, not fully understanding that He was born to die so that we might be reborn and never die.

A week after that silent night, Simeon’s words (Luke 2:35) made it clear – a fire was coming! Truly great novels and plays all have dark chapters; for there to be a triumph, there must be internal or external foes and dark times. And there is nothing so riveting in literature as an innocent, because of love, dying in the place of one who is guilty.

Your Fires

When we experience a “fire” in our lives, we must process the grief with thanksgiving.  It is in this process that revitalization and growth can occur. As we accept God’s sovereignty in our lives and think thanks in whatever circumstance, forestfire-growth.jpegnew fresh growth will slowly happen.

There are purposes for pain and suffering that we may have no idea of.  We cry out to our God that we are so overwhelmed and at the end of our rope. Although the challenge to trust and think thanks seems so beyond what we are capable of doing, that is the way of hope, the way of birth after death.

As time unfolds we may understand more, but only when we are face to face with our Creator will we fully comprehend.

So that the tested genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  I Peter 1:7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Thankful in vs. Thankful for

004853F9-94D8-4CB3-B1D5-D78D2CB97AF8Difference Between In and For

The difference between giving thanks in and giving thanks for is worth pondering.

Recently while discussing this topic with some friends, the question arose on how a person could give thanks for horrific things that had happened to them. It seems totally absurd to give thanks for trauma and abuse.

We rehearsed the verses from I Thessalonians 5:18 and Ephesians 5:20 where we are instructed to give thanks in all circumstances as well as giving thanks always for all things. How do we make sense of giving thanks for all things?

I want to compare the concept of giving thanks in the circumstance compared to giving thanks for the circumstance.

Begin with Giving Thanks IN

“Giving thanks in” is giving thanks for the good things all around your dark reality, points of light in the middle of the storm, though it feels so uncomfortable to do so. Perhaps you can only focus on Scripture’s promise that God will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5b). Maybe you can think thanks that this circumstance is helping you remember that life is a vapor and soon it will be gone. There is a purpose for you right now and in your immediate circumstance – you are to please God (2 Cor.5:9).

We trust in the sovereignty of our God. He has promised to not test us above what we are able. He has promised to never leave nor forsake us. We cry out to our Creator God to hold us and comfort us in our distress. He knows all we have gone through and are going through. It’s hard to trust Him though when my heart is so crushed, but we must. And we must begin to think thanks.

Rise to Giving Thanks FOR

“Giving thanks for” is actually thanking God for the dark thing itself, because by it God achieved a greater good. As time passes and you get a better view of how God is shaping things, you often recognize the great void and terrible loss of gospel opportunity there would have been without the trial.  You would have been happier and busy somewhere else, and God’s profound work would have been undone. That’s when you learn to embrace the trial itself.

But that is deep blue hero stuff.  It took a long journey for Joni Eareckson Tada to come to the place where she gave thanks for her horrific accident that changed her life completely. Joni became a quadriplegic as a result of a diving accident and by it has had the chance to minister to hundreds of thousands around the world. The friend that helped her through the early days of that trial, Steve Estes, said:

“God permits what he hates to accomplish what he loves.”                

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“I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of ages.” Charles Spurgeon

Overcome Evil with Good

CourtroomChoosing to Forgive

Last week, a friend of mine, a precious older godly lady, attended the trial of the man who killed her husband. Four years ago, her beloved’s life was snuffed out by this drunk driver.

Finally, she would have the chance to speak with him face to face.  She had come to peace with God’s sovereign choice to take her husband home when He did. She just wanted to tell the man that she forgave him. At the end of the trial, he was sentenced to 15 years without parole … and she got the opportunity to let him know that he was forgiven.

After prayer meeting, she wanted to tell David and me some things that she was thankful for in the middle of this trial. I just had to relate these to you!

  • She was so very thankful that her husband died instantaneously;
  • She was thankful that he knew the Lord as his personal Savior; he was ready for death and ready to meet the Lord;
  • The morning of his accident, he had forgotten his car keys, so he rang the front doorbell and my friend quickly grabbed the keys on the counter knowing exactly what was going on. She handed him the keys, and while he normally would have grabbed them and hurried off, for some reason, he stopped and gave her a sweet kiss. She didn’t know it was their last one, but later she saw that it was a gift from God.

th(i)nkful – Overcoming Evil with Good

light shining onLife (and the sovereign God behind it) will bring opportunities for us to choose to overcome evil with good, darkness with light. Romans 12:17-21 talks about what to do when we are served evil. Verse 21 says to not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good.

Joseph told his brothers who sold him into slavery, “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). When we can see a sovereign God weaving His perfect purposes behind all of the damage others may do to us, we feel compelled to join Him in the good He is accomplishing through it.

One of the ways we can overcome evil with good is to exercise being th(i)nkful.  Just like what my friend was doing during the trial.  The facts of what happened in the accident were hard to hear again, but she saw God’s fingerprints and mentally searched for things to be thankful for.

This is not easy to do.  It is difficult, but it is possible.  Perhaps in the beginning it will only be tiny baby steps of expressing th(i)nkfulness. Little by little, discovering things to think thanks about will surface, and as we express those things, we overcome the darkness with light.

Spiritual Truth in the Eclipse

The solar eclipse coming across the U.S. on August 21, 2017 illustrates this perfectly. Believing scientists tell us (watch the video “Privileged Planet” – at 27 minutes in) that although the sun is 400x larger than the moon, God placed the moon at the perfect distance (400x closer) so that, during the totality when they examine the corona, they can detect the types of gases burning in the sun and learn about solar winds – things only possible in a total eclipse.

The spiritual truth is that when God’s face is eclipsed by the harshness of life, 1) the darkness is temporary and the light will return, and 2) if we study the situation, we will find that there are things about God we can only learn during the darkness of such an eclipse.

  1. “The first thing that you have to do if you’re going to forgive a person is to receive the grace of God.  Until you receive grace from God, and His forgiveness of you, you will not be in a position to forgive somebody else. 
  2. The second thing?  Acknowledge the wrong. Name it, whatever it was.  Name it in the presence of Christ.  Be straightforward with Him. 
  3. Number three, lay down all your rights.  Forgiveness is the unconditional laying down of the self. 
  4. And now, number four? . . .If that person asks forgiveness, forgive. . . if he does not. . .forgive him anyway in a private transaction with God.  Ask for grace to treat that person as if nothing had ever happened. Stand with Christ for him.”

Elisabeth Elliot (after her husband was killed by Auca Indians)

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 – 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.

 

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.

Th(i)nkful About The Cross

The Cross

The longer I live and grow in understanding of things around me, the more I realize that I have only scratched the surface of what happened at the cross.  It is the climax of all of human history.  It brings freedom from guilt and the wrenching problem of sins for which we could not pay.  It infuses hope to all who trust in what Christ did to reconcile us to God.  It is the means of saving little children who have only a simple understanding, and yet it continually baffles theologians and philosophers.

The cross exemplifies how humans should live and die in pursuit of doing the Father’s will.  The cross is the means by which Christians come to life, and yet the cross is what Jesus demanded we take up daily in dying to self.  One day, the entire physical earth will be healed because of what happened on that hill outside Jerusalem.

Thinking about the cross creates such varied responses from mankind.  Some scorn it as immoral.  Some are filled with disbelief that anything of supernatural value happened there.  Some believe that it indeed happened, but will not submit to any claim that Jesus is God or that we are somehow answerable to Him. Some see it as symbol of sincere devotion to God, and that by somehow relishing that symbol on a wall or around the neck, they will somehow gain a better relationship with the Almighty.

Some begin to get the full realization that we are completely indebted to the Father and the Son for what happened on that cross.  Without the gospel of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, there is no hope for salvation for judgment, healing, growth, or a future with Him in heaven.

Grasping fully what Christ did on the cross for me that day will cause my heart to always, and forever, be filled with thinkfulness. Because of Jesus, I can live the moments I have left in this life, full of thinking thanks that I was written into the story of humankind and of the redeemed.

What an incredibly awesome story God is writing! From eternity past to eternity future, everything points to the cross.  Thank you, God, for Who You are and that You have provided a way for us to return to You!  You made the story simple enough for a child to understand, but embedded in its simplicity is a complexity that I can never hope to really grasp.

Thankful?

Hope in Knysna

On the southern tip of Africa there lies a beautiful bowl-shaped lagoon with the city of Knysna nestled around it.  It is one of the top dream holiday destinations for the country of South Africa.  On June 7, 2017, a fire began to sweep throughout the beautiful dry winter landscape around Knysna. A family died. Thousands of people were evacuated and displaced.  Homes and schools were burned to the ground. People lost all their earthly belongings and even livelihoods.  Life will never be quite the same for those that went through this tragedy. Knysna, South Africa, has gone through a horrendous ordeal.

How can a person begin to think thanks in these kind of circumstances?

At first you feel so numb.  You have to stop the bleeding. People need food and water. Everything seems to take forever.  Things that seemed so important before, somehow have lost their urgency. What really matters?

Coming face to face with tragedies is often the source of people turning their backs on the Lord.  How could a loving God allow it?

Our friends, Dave and Julie Rudolph, are missionaries in Knysna and are forging their way through this devastating time and looking for ways to share the love of Christ in the midst of trial. Here is an update.

Dave Rudolph’s Update from Knysna

You may have your own fire, a hard thing that you have gone through that is difficult to process. It seems impossible to find any sense in it all.  I know I have experienced hard things like that.  I wrote down these 10 things following a talk on why God allows sufferings.  They have been immensely helpful for me personally.  Why does God allow evil and suffering?

  1. God is justly allowing sin’s curse on the earth to take its natural course; the earth is broken and longing for redemption. Romans 8:22
  2. God is jolting me to get me really searching for Him in prayer and in the Bible. Jeremiah 29:13-14.
  3. God is refining me, freeing me from some vice and building virtue in me (the greater good). I Pet. 4:3-4; Job 23
  4. God is equipping me to be a compassionate comfort and strength to others. 2 Cor. 1:4.
  5. God is equipping me for greater service; changing the scope of my influence.
  6. God is freeing me from trust/dependence on things, teaching me that He is the only thing I hold on to.
  7. God is opening a door for me to share my faith and show God’s love.
  8. God wants me to long for a better place. 2 Cor. 4:16-18.
  9. God is privileging us to share in His suffering – reward comes with this.
  10. God is demonstrating that He can sustain and keep His children faithful.

Searching for the things for which we can be th(i)nkful sometimes feels almost irreverent of the incredible pain that we are experiencing.  Formulating thanks through our tears is an act of worship to the Sovereign One that He does not take lightly.  He knows. He sees.  He rewards our effort to download His grace in order to gain His perspective in every circumstance.

purposefully thinking thanks in the midst of tragedy is like beginning to climb a rope out of the hole of despair that you find yourself in.