The Eight Gates

Jerusalem’s Gates

The excitement was almost palpable. We were in Jerusalem! I had dreamed of this day for most of my life.  I was going to see with my own eyes the old city and think about how the Lord had been in this place. We hurried along the walkways and came up to the huge Jaffa gate. Let me introduce you to the one city that is truly “holy.” 🙂a blog on city-gates 9

Jerusalem is not only one of the oldest cities in the world, but has a huge prophetic part to play in the future. Walking those old streets made the scriptures come alive to me.

Old city Jerusalem has eight main gates strategically placed in its walls. History oozes from these old walls; if we could only hear them speak!a blog on gates

The Walls of My Mind

I was especially interested in learning that the eight gates remarkably illustrate the eight things that Paul tells us to think about in Philippians 4:8.

What if we pictured our minds as old Jerusalem? Only thoughts that fit the Philippians 4:8 qualifications were allowed to enter and roam the streets. Let me describe the eight gates to you and connect them with the eight things we should meditate on.  This is so cool! 🙂  First, let’s look at the verse:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.                                                          
                                                                              Philippians 4:8

1. Jaffa Gate – What is True

When coming up from Tel Aviv, the Jaffa gate is the gate you see first. It is shaped like a “L” with a door on either side. Here is an interesting true tidbit about the Jaffa Gate. In 1917, British general Edmund Allenby entered the Old City through the Jaffa Gate, but got off his horse and went in by foot to show respect, desiring to avoid comparison with Kaiser Wilhelm II’s haughty entry in 1898.a blog on city-gates 1

Let’s connect the Jaffa Gate with the True Gate.

Ask yourself. Is this thought true? Am I thinking about something that is a lie? Is my meditation in accord with what is true? Only thoughts that are true are allowed to enter my ‘Jaffa Gate.’

2. Zion Gate – What is Honorable

The first mention of Zion in the Bible is in 2 Samuel 5:7 when King David captured the fortress of Zion.a blog on city-gates 4

Here, David and I are standing in the Zion Gate, which has bullet marks clearly visible from the 1948 war. Victories in battle give a soldier honors, so connecting Zion Gate with honor is perfect.

The Evil One loves to fill our thoughts with shameful things that we think no one else will know about.  Is this thought honorable? Opposites of honorable are shameful and ignoble.

Do my thoughts fit through the Honorable Gate?

3. Dung Gate – What is Just

The Dung Gate is the place where the refuse of the old city was carried out to the Hinnom valley (Gehenna) where the fires never died. It is located close to the Temple Mount.

a blog on gates 3The Dung Gate and the Just Gate could easily be connected by the fact that our just reward for our sin is death. All our righteousness is as dung, filthiness (Is. 64:6). We justly deserve punishment, but God instead has given us His righteousness.

Do my thoughts reflect things that are just? Just is defined as based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair. That qualification would be a good checkpoint for my thoughts.

4. Golden Gate – What is Pure

a blog on city-gates 5What a neat picture for the Golden Gate to be linked to the Pure Gate. That gate will be opened when the Pure and Holy One comes. The Messiah has already entered the predecessor of this gate once before riding on a donkey a few days before He died to pay for my sin. Soon He will return to claim His rightful kingdom.

In myself, I cannot attain pure thoughts because of the sinful person that I am, but as I allow my Savior to control my thoughts and renew my mind to be like His, pure thoughts will dominate.

Four Gates Down, Four To Go!

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5. Lion’s Gate – What is Lovely

The Lion’s Gate and the Lovely Gate both start with ‘L.’ If one looks carefully on the wall on both sides of the top of the gate, you can see lions. This is close to the location where Stephen was martyred.

a blog on Gates 4

Sometimes lovely thoughts are difficult thoughts. Stephen died for Christ because of his great love for Him. He gave the greatest gift he could for His Savior ~ his life. And when he died, Stephen saw Jesus, who had been seated at the right hand of the Father, stand.

Are my thoughts lovely?

6. Herod’s Gate – What is Commendable

Herod was the greatest known builder in the Middle East in ancient times. He built Masada as a palace, the city of Caesarea on the coast, the Herodium palace, and he rebuilt the second temple and the mount on which it sat.  The stones at the wailing wall today were laid by Herod. Though he was a wicked man, his building achievements were commendable. a blog on gates 5

This Commendable Gate would check whether my thoughts were constructive, innovative, and worthy of approval. Would it bother me if someone could see my thoughts projected up on a screen? Would they be approved by an inspecting king?

7. Damascus Gate – What is Excellent

This gate was the busiest gate around Jerusalem and brought you to the main road heading to all points north in Israel and to Syria. This would have been the gate a rabbi named Saul left on his way to arrest Christians in Damascus. This road was likely the one next to which Jesus was crucified.

a blog on city-gates 7There is nothing in Scripture about a hill called Golgotha or a mount called Calvary. “The place of the skull” was next to a road; it still is today.  Romans crucified criminals beside the main road to teach a lesson to passersby of what happens when you disobey Roman Law.

Jesus was the Excellent One. The Perfect One. Because He died as a perfect human, the curse from Adam could be reversed. We can partake in the results of His death on the cross. He saves us.

Are my thoughts clear, creative, and consistent with the gospel? Do I live and think in light of that Good News? Are my thoughts excellent?

8. New Gate – What is Praiseworthya blog on gates 7

This is the most recent of the gates. It was opened in 1889 to allow easier access for worshippers in the Christian quarter.

The New Gate is connected to the Praiseworthy Gate. We must find new ways to continually praise the Lord because He is the Praiseworthy One.  If, in our thinking, we are looking for things to praise the Worthy One, other thoughts that do not line up those sentiments will feel out of place.

Final Check

So there you are. These are the 8 gates that need to guard our minds.a blog on gates

  1. True Gate ~ Jaffa
  2. Honorable Gate ~ Zion
  3. Just Gate ~ Dung
  4. Pure Gate ~ Golden
  5. Lovely Gate ~ Lion’s
  6. Commendable Gate ~ Herod’s
  7. Excellent Gate ~ Damascus
  8. Praiseworthy Gate ~ New  

 

 

If your thoughts fit into these eight gates, you will have no trouble thinking thanks.

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Thinkful Going Viral

Screen Shot 2020-04-06 at 2.21.10 PMGoing Viral

Sometimes it’s a video of a reporter suddenly seeing an approaching wild animal, or neighbors welcoming home a teenage cancer patient, or an incident of heroism or racism, we are used to referring to a rapidly spreading story as “going viral.”

YouTubers hope that their music, sports, cooking, drone or humous video will go viral and get a million hits. Famous people thrive on seeing their tweets go viral – even negative attention is better than no attention at all, right?

What Does Viral Mean?

A couple definitions of viral are:

  • of the nature of, caused by, or relating to a virus or viruses:“a severe viral infection”
  • contagious; descriptive of an image, video, or piece of information that is circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another – “it went viral

Lately, we have heard the word “virus” a lot – almost too much to bear. The coronavirus has deeply impacted our lives; stopped our mobility, filled our hearts with heavy news, sent some of our loved ones to suffer or die alone, upended our economy, and snuffed out our jobs. This virus has demonstrated how the phrase “gone viral” got its name. From the first cases in Wuhan at the end of 2019 … to epidemic … to pandemic … to civilization-altering.

Imagine Good Viral

aaa viral post 4Can you imagine with me for a second how something good could go viral?  Let’s take the concept of a person being thinkful.  Here you have one person that chooses to download grace from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance that comes into their life.  They actively express that thanks. They either write it down, express it orally, or post it in written or video form on social media.

Let’s say they “infect” just two people to follow their example. Then those two people express how they are choosing to think thanks amid adverse circumstances and infect two more people. In a short time, the exponential power of “overcoming thinkfulness” can move a simple choice to pandemic status.

Example of Going Viral

Debbie began to float the idea of sewing face-masks to help our community. It started with her talking to a local doctor and then she garnered other ladies to help.

aaa viral post 6As of this evening, we have been able to provide over 400 face-masks for our Amazimtoti healthcare providers, police officers, and gas station attendants.

We now have Debbie, Chrisna, Sarah, Jacky, Daphne, and myself sewing like crazy to try to be a testimony for Jesus in a needy time. Common masks are almost impossible to get, so providing the masks with an insert about our church and scripture is greatly appreciated.  I love seeing it grow exponentially.

Thinkful Viral

The beauty and danger of something going viral is that it takes so little. Just one cough droplet or the accidental touch of an infected area can have huge ramifications. So also is the power of one person choosing to think thanks. aaa viral post 2It takes one person inspiring another and encouraging that person to do likewise. These days it likely happens on the computer from all our isolated homes.

Won’t you start? Just be the one to set the example. Many of you are already doing it; I see it on social media. You have developed brain neural pathways of looking for things to think thanks about throughout your days. You give your thanks to God as a present. He is deserving of this gift, this sacrifice of praise, even when we don’t understand His ways. Especially then.

Th(i)nkful (adj) describing people who choose to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in their life and to express that thanks orally or in written form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close the Door!

Baboons!

The large male baboon came right in our patio door, up across our bed, scaled a partition wall, and sauntered down on to the kitchen counter. We were standing right there, amazed and a bit afraid!

000-chachma-baboon

Around the Drakensberg Mountains there are many troops of baboons. They meander the hillsides looking for anything edible. They are not aggressive unless attacked; it has been rumored that three baboons can take down a leopard.

Recently, my husband took me away for a two-night get away at a chalet in the Giant’s Castle Nature Reserve. It was lovely. The first night we had beautiful clear weather and got to fit in lots of hiking, drinking in God’s beauty in those magnificent mountains.a baboob blog 2

The next morning we got our surprise visit from this large baboon who rummaged through out kitchen shelves, helping himself to some Scandinavian knekkebrød and Fisherman’s Friend lozenges. Haha! He promptly spit out the lozenges, but the plastic bag with the knekkebrød interested him enough to take along as he scooted out the patio door.

We were sorry that we didn’t get it on camera, but joked around that the guy had quite the nerve to come maneuvering in while we were standing right there. The incident caused us to be more cautious to close the door completely as we moved in and out.

The next morning, I was sitting having my Bible time, when all of a sudden there was a loud sound at the patio door. The baboon was back and tried to open the closed door. Sadly for him the door was too hard for him to pull. No more knekkebrød for you, buddy.

Thinkful Lesson

I wonder how many “doors of the mind” we leave open, allowing the baboons of ingratitude in.  They slip in and start rummaging through everything in your life – “What is this?!  This is no good!  There isn’t enough of the good stuff here for me!  I’ll take this and this, and no, I won’t say thank you or acknowledge anyone else. This is all about me.” An unexamined heart and mind is no little thing. The baboon of ingratitude has to be kept outside!a baboon blog 3The baboon seemed so matter-of-fact, but he was a thief.  So is ingratitude – he steals away the good things you have all around you.  The things he leaves are polluted with his dirty feet, hands, and bottom; he coats your wonderful lozenges with saliva so they’re no good anymore.

That baboon had been in that chalet many times to grab things; his fear of authority had been overcome by the pleasure of his scavenging habit.  Even so, ingratitude can make a home in your mind, feeling that all your stuff is his stuff, caring not one bit that neither God nor you want him soiling your thoughts.

As the plaque on the chalet wall instructed us:

“You feed the baboons.
We shoot them.”

a baboon blogpost 7We were not trying to feed the baboons. We were getting ready to have breakfast and I had not even gotten the flatbread out of the plastic bag. 🙂  But the owners of the chalet knew that baboons must be kept out, must not be encouraged, and if need be, must be shot dead. So it is with ingratitude – keep it out, do not feed it, and if it is making a habit of entering your mind at will, you need to shoot it dead.

Close the Door to Ingratitude?

You get to choose what you think about. I know you feel like you can’t really control your thoughts, but that is a falsehood. You decide. Through the habit of ingratitude, you may have nurtured a network of neural pathways into your brain. It feels like your fault-finding, irritated, complaining thoughts jump in quickly and automatic and you have to just hang on.  Not so.  Take courage.  You do what you do … because you think what you think … because you want what you want.  🙂  You can, with God’s help, choose differently.a baboon blogpost 6

Instead let there be thanksgiving.

Ephesians 5:4b

When we decide, only with Christ’s strength, to forge a gratitude neural pathway, we have to close the door to the baboons of ingratitude.  It will try to push its way in, but you must see him as the enemy and not a furry friend who needs feeding.

Close the door!

Singing at My Execution

Arrested by Law

Bali9Andrew Chan was one of the ringleaders of the Bali Nine, a group of Australians who were convicted for smuggling 8.3 kg of heroin out of Indonesia in April 2005. Indonesia is tough on drug offenders. When convicted, Andrew became desperate. He wanted to die, but was afraid to face eternity because of something in the back of his mind from his childhood.

When Andrew was younger, growing up in a Buddhist home in Sydney, Australia, a neighbor named Luke took him to Sunday School, and Andrew heard the gospel clearly presented. What if there really was a life after death?

Arrested By Grace

Andrew asked the guards for a Bible and began reading voraciously.  With a little guidance from Luke who visited the prison, Andrew came to saving faith.  The gospel transformed him completely.

A short time later, the sentences were announced: most of the nine received life sentences; Chan and the other ringleader received the death penalty. Puzzling God’s purposes, Andrew poured himself into ministry. As he appealed his sentence, he used the next 10 years of his life to lead over 200 prisoners to the Lord, baptize them, run Bible-studies, finish seminary online; he even started a church within the prison!

“So I suppose I’m thankful that every day I actually get to wake up. As you know, I’m studying and, you know, a lot of people might say that it’s probably no use. Look where you’re staying!  But I believe God has given me this time for a purpose.” Andrew Chan, 2012 interview

A1 Bali Execution Song 1Finishing With Worship

Andrew did two things just hours before he died: he married his sweetheart, Febyanti Herewila, and prepared a eulogy to be read at his funeral in Sydney. He was executed for his crimes on Indonesia’s “Death Island” on April 29, 2015.

But Andrew was a man ready to meet his Maker.  Dispelling fear, he led the other prisoners in singing praises to the Lord as the firing squad made ready.  They were on the second verse of 10,000 Reasons when the shots fired.

You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind …

Dispelling Fear by Calling The Name

In my last blogpost, I emphasized the second phrase in Psalm 69:30: “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” When we magnify the Lord, His hiddenness dissolves and His presence becomes more obvious.

aa Name Dispels FearBut in the first phrase, the Psalmist states he will sing praise to the name of the Lord. In fact, devout Jews refer to God only as “Hashem” – the Name. Proverbs 18:10 likens the name of the Lord to a strong tower; a person who runs to it is safe.

Angst and fear become fidgety around the name of Jesus.  They are unwelcome and ill-fitting guests in His company.  Like darkness that cannot fight back against light, anxiety begins to fade.

Have you ever sung a song that uses the names of God? Remember Jesus, Name Above All Names? My husband wrote a few more verses for that song highlighting more names of the Lord.

Jesus, Name Above All Names

Jesus, Name above all names,
Beautiful Savior, Glorious Lord,
Emmanuel, God is with us,
Blessed Redeemer, Living Word.

Jesus, Splendid Creator,
Mighty Sustainer, Sov’reign of all that is,
The Cornerstone, Daystar and Dayspring,
Wonderful Couns’lor, Prince of Peace.

Jesus, Lion of Judah,
Root of Jesse, humble Nazarene,
Anointed One, Son of David,
Blessed Messiah, Coming King.

Jesus, Man of Sorrows,
Kinsman Redeemer, scorned and rejected,
The Lamb of God, spotless yet suffering,
Buried, then risen up from the grave.

Jesus, Faithful and True One,
Alpha, Omega, Ancient of Days,
The angels, falling before Thee,
Join with our voices, echo our praise.

In the morning when I worship the Lord in thanksgiving, I love to rehearse the names of the Lord:  “You are Elohim, El Elyon, El Shaddai, El Roi, Adonai, Yahweh, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Rapha, Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Sabaoth, Jehovah Mekoddishkem, Jehovah Tsidkenu, Jehovah Rohi, Jehovah Shammah.”

How about creatively designing a thanksgiving song of your own focusing on the Names of God that dispel fear?

A1 Bali 8

Th(i)nkful in the Gauntlet

What is a Gauntlet?

A gauntlet is an intimidating, frightening, and sometimes dangerous set of tests that must be endured or gone through in order to reach a desired place or an end goal.  

Remember in the movie, “First Knight,” IMG-7223how Lancelot willingly volunteered to run the gauntlet? There were blades, spikes, swords, bludgeons, paddles, and heavy balls whirling about him at different speeds, and from different directions.

He had to have excellent timing to avoid the sharp blades and dexterity to slip between the huge obstacles.  Those watching were holding their breath because the odds were not good that he would make it to the end unharmed.  But he did. 🙂

Perhaps you are in a gauntlet of sorts right now.  Life is full of challenging storms, warped pavement, intimidating obstacles, repetitious hurdles, and bends in the road through which God is trying to move us toward a closer relationship of trust with Him.

Our Gauntlet

David and I have our own gauntlet that we are running.  We are headed back to the mission field this evening.  Our plane leaves Atlanta 41968135_10160844145675273_4747634137211338752_naround 10 pm and we arrive in Amanzimtoti, South Africa, on Thursday morning, Lord willing.  These past few months we have been so busy preparing and packing … and today we go.

As we head out on this third missionary journey, I have been eager to embrace staying th(i)nkful right in the process.

Yes, there are times when I have cried so hard because we will be further away from our kids and grandchildren.  And the upcoming test of learning Zulu is daunting to me.  But putting feet to the th(i)nkful idea has brought such joy and peace.

Keeping Steady

There’s something that I do when I go through hard times that the Lord has encouraged me with.  I seek for a Bible verse to be an anchor for my soul that I can memorize and feed on.  Often I am able to come up with a little tune for the verse, and I sing it as I hurry about to accomplish the tasks and challenges before me. That little tune runs with me and inspires me to keep my thoughts where they ought to be…on Him.

Psalm 73:28 is my Zululand anchor.

“But it is good for me to draw near to God, I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all your works.”

Last evening, we had a final visit with our precious son and his family.  After enjoying pizza together we went up to the children’s bedroom and sat around singing songs and praying together.  We sang my little Psalm 73:28 chorus with Nicolas easily picking up the guitar chords.  What an indelible memory and gift that was for me as we leave.  I am so incredibly blessed!

My th(i)nkful list:

  • God never leaves me nor forsakes me; He is equally present on the other side of the earth
  • This life is a vapor; heaven is not now, but it’s coming (gauntlets don’t last forever)
  • My husband loves to serve the Lord and is eager to push himself out of his comfort zone to learn a new language and serve new people
  • We have an incredible prayer support team.  They are “holding the ropes” for us
  • Going through this packing process has simplified my life; it feels so good to not have so much stuff
  • Josh and Celeste and their children Face-timed us this morning to say goodbye and tell us that they are praying for us
  • My Dad is so proud of us and promises to pray often
  • Dan and Deb Willoughby are receiving us into their own home a few days on the field to let us get our feet
  • Justin and Stephanie and precious boys came down the weekend before to just be together
  • Pastor Chris, Joe, Greg, Mac, Doug, Dr. Miles, and Steve laid hands on us and prayed over us on Sunday, with an entire congregation surrounding us as they sent us out
  • Psalm 73:28
  • I am not coughing
  • I don’t have a headache
  • Jonny and Elly in China are following our journey
  • We get to bring our pillows and our soft duvet
  • Julia wanted me to teach her hand-quilting last night before I left
  • The Indian Ocean is beautiful and magnificent and we will be very close
  • We have an incredible hope in Jesus and His work on the cross

“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!”  –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

 

 

Can’t Stop It!

Abounding Water

overflowing 4Whether you imagine Iguazu Falls in South America, Victoria Falls in Zambia, Niagara Falls in New York, or the Laguna hot springs in the Philippines, each gives us a strong image of abounding water that can’t be stopped.  Strong, smooth, steady, and striking in their beauty, the abounding flow cannot be held back and rushes over the edge.

Some synonyms for abounding: very plentiful, abundant, considerable, copious, ample, lavish, profuse, boundless, prolific, inexhaustible, generous, galore.

Abounding Thanksgiving

The Apostle Paul once wrote to new believers in a town called Colossae. He had never met them, but as with so many of his letters, he wanted to straighten out their understanding of Christ and then help them see how that would straighten out the way that they lived life. He told them to focus on the foundation:

“Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”  Colossians 2:6-7

Inexhaustible thankfulness, he said, is an integral part of the very foundation of the Christian life. In one sentence, Paul used four metaphors! The rooting of a tree, the construction of a building, the settlement of a colony, and the overflow of a waterfall.

sodaburstThe word translated “abounding” from the Greek unfortunately has no English equivalent.  It means “to super-abound, to be excessive, to go way beyond.”

We’re not talking about something mild, occasional, or comfortable here. Because of the gospel of Christ, we’ve been rescued, ransomed, redeemed, restored, adopted, declared righteous, vested with an inheritance, given a different road, a different Guide, a different purpose, and a different destination.

We need to literally bubble up and burst with thanksgiving, like the bottle of soda you dropped just before the party. The same word is used in 1 Corinthians 15:58 where we are told to always abound in the work of the Lord.

Abounding and You?

A person growing in Christ should be abounding in thanksgiving.  This is a basic Christian-life skill.  It’s fundamental.  So what does that look like for me?  Is this something that just happens naturally or do I need to consciously work on thinking thanks in order to abound in thanksgiving?  Duty begins with discipline but can end up as a delight.

There can be no doubt that God desires us to be thankful. How about trying to just think of one thing today that you could express thankfulness for to someone?

Drop.  Trickle.  Flow.  Gush!

The Pyramids of Egypt

Intrigue from the Pyramids

The Great Pyramid at Giza outside Cairo, Egypt, is the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to still exist. We visited there a couple weeks ago on our way to a teaching assignment in Alexandria. Riding the camels at the pyramids was a lifelong dream.

CONSTRUCTION:Pyramids of Egypt No one knows how Pharaoh Khufu built his Great Pyramid back in 2560 BC, 500 years before Abraham. It included 2.3 million blocks weighing 20+ tons each. If they finished it in 20 years, that would mean laying a block every 4 minutes, day and night so tightly that you can’t fit a piece of paper between them! It was 480 feet tall, the tallest building in the world for 3800 years.

We walked the base – 760 feet long – and it is perfectly horizontal to within a half inch. The perimeter was 2x pi of the height, what is known as phi or the Golden Ratio. The orientation of the pyramid to true north was better than almost any modern building. In fact, with today’s technology, we could not reconstruct this pyramid.

ASTRONOMY: Triangular casing stones used to line the pyramids creating a smooth shining surface. At the spring equinox on March 21st of each year, light came down the north side for the first time that year.Pyramids of Egypt 3

The Egyptians believed the dark area of the night sky around which the stars appear to revolve was the physical gateway into heaven. One of the narrow shafts that extend from the main burial chamber through the entire body of the Great Pyramid points directly towards the center of this part of the sky. This suggests the pyramid may have been designed to serve as a means to magically launch the deceased pharaoh’s soul directly into the abode of the gods.

Our Connection with the Pyramids

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Although there is great mystery as to how this ancient people could build such a huge, precise, and complex structure, one thing is certain. They wanted to leave a lasting memory of their Pharaoh Khufu. There was intrigue with the afterlife and possible ways of resurrection. Even the wealthy, strong, powerful and mighty are eventually conquered by death.

My thoughts go to Hebrews 9:27. “And as it is appointed unto men to die, but after this the judgment.”  All of us, whether Pharaoh or lowly worker, will face our Creator one day. In my own family we have become more acquainted with death this past week with the passing of a family member into eternity.

In light of that, how should we approach each new day? What investment will you make today in the souls of humans and God’s Word (the two things that will last forever)? A wise woman told me once that ‘eternity’ should be stamped on the back of my eyelids.

I am th(i)nkful, meditating on things I want to give thanks for,  in regards to eternity:

  1. I do not not need to build a huge pyramid to ensure that God will raise me from the dead (I Corinthians 15:52).
  2. God has numbered all my days (Psalm 139:16).
  3. Man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9).
  4. Keeping eternity in focus helps me keep the goal clear in my vision (Hebrews 12:2).
  5. God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7).
  6. God has provided enough wherewithal for me to do His will. I will not run out of grace (Ephesians 2:10; I Corinthians 10:13).
  7. Hebrews 13: 20-21. Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

What are You Th(i)nkful for in Regards to Eternity?

God is God. God is good. God is good at being God.

Thank you, God, for the gift of another breath, help me live my remaining days filled with trust in Your character and purposes. May I overflow with thankfulness, expressing it liberally to You and others.

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Th(i)nkful Repels Grumpy

Natural Forces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose to be Thankful

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

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

My Own Choice

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

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

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

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

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Simple Travel Tips

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

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

 

Pathway through the Woods

Brain Neural Pathwaywooded debris 1

Cultivating  th(i)nkfulness can be compared to carving a path through the woods.  It  seems overwhelming at first with debris and obstructions.  It takes great effort to remove fallen logs and roots.  You may need some tools like a spade and a chainsaw, or good sharp clippers.

Our brains are similar in that forging a new brain pattern or neural pathway in order to create a new life habit is daunting at first but gets easier with time. God has created our brains to be able to do this.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.

How Do I Do It?

The first practical step you do when beginning to carve a brain path, is to deliberately lay out a plan. Your goal is to have your thoughts automatically head towards what to think thanks about in any given situation. You begin to search in your thoughts for things that you can be thankful for.

If you are in an unusually happy situation, it’s not very hard to find things to be thankful for. Even in normal, day-to-day times it’s not hard to begin to discover th(i)nkful items.

However, when hard times come, the difficulty  level rises to delineate thankful items. Let me illustrate with this example from my friend Dawn:

“My heart was tempted to complain about the mounds of laundry today. The Holy Spirit reminded me, “Be thankful. Think thanks.”

So as I’m folding I start saying in my mind…
Thank You, God for these clothes.
Thank You for your provision of new and used hand-me-downs.
Thank You that they are clothes we got to choose and that we like them. 😊
Thank You for the little (and big) legs that move to make these pants dirty.
Thank You for the soap to wash them.
Thank You for the washing machine that washes and I don’t have to do it by hand.
Thank You for the tumble dryer that works in my basement, and that I don’t have to air dry them in the cold.
Thank You for the dryer that gets the wrinkles out so I don’t have to iron.
Thank You that I am able to be at home and squeeze this chore in between schooling.
Thank You for the energy and wellness to do this. I’m not sick in bed.
The list could go on…
Be th(i)nkful. Think thanks when you’re tempted to complain in your heart.

She chose to download grace and begin carving the neural brain pathway of thinking thanks about the situation.  She then expressed it.  Engaging in the discipline of being th(i)nkful ended up not only helping her mindset, but encouraging others to do likewise.

Patiently Conquer Step by Step

The habit of cultivatipath through woodsng thinking thanks takes time.  You have to see progress in little steps at a time.  Think about that path through the woods. As you step by step conquer the mess, soon the path becomes apparent.

In time you will be able to run that path.  How cool!!

This exercise is much more that just creating a better mindset for us.  Practicing th(i)nkfulness is an act of worship to our Redeemer who has given us a command.  Give thanks in all circumstances.  He knows that being grateful is a key to our sanctification and maturity in Him.

So… I just wanted to get you started this year on developing that brain pathway through the ‘woods.’

Who doesn’t enjoy a walk in the woods anyway?? 🙂

wooded-path-e1513099191945.jpg

Revealer of our Heart

Season of Opening Boxes

opening box 2

Not sure how things are at your house, but I know for many, these weeks are so busy with boxes.  There are small boxes, and large boxes, fat boxes, and thin boxes.  Secrets and presents are busily being purchased, baked, built or developed to be revealed at the perfect time.

opening box 1The outside appearance of a box can hide a multitude of things.  It is often quite difficult to imagine what is inside.  The actual item may be a lot smaller than the box, but the box is filled with tissue paper as a playful deception. That’s part of the giddiness of Christmas giving – concealing the contents, avoiding the predictable. At the appropriate time, however, the lid comes off and what is inside becomes visible.

Pulling the Lid Off My Heart

The same is true with the human heart – you don’t know what’s inside until the lid comes off. Some of us put more stock, investment, and armor in our façade than others. But with the right amount of pressure or intoxication, the box opens up and … wow!

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.”  Psalm 140:13

opening box 4The Psalmist makes a revealing statement about the righteous person in Ps. 140:13.  Someone who loves God and is cleansed by the Lamb, will surely give thanks. They will have a bent towards wanting to be th(i)nkful.  It will fit for them and not feel out of place.

I Thessalonians 5:18 says that even when the box is suddenly ripped open, one of the first things people should see inside is the giving of thanks.  Yes, there may be hurt, pain, sorrow, expectations in ashes, and a thousand tears, but they will be intertwined with this unbelievable ribbon of thanks. That is God’s will.  It may not be easy all the time.  It is hard work to develop the mindset of thinking thanks about every situation, but it is profitable and fitting because God has designed it that way.

So How Is Your Box?

Opening the box of a righteous person’s heart should expose gratitude and a desire to express thanks.  I don’t know about you, but this was convicting for me.  My heart should be full of giving thanks.

When my thoughts are conflicted with frustrations and disappointments, I should take a reality check.  What is really important here?  Am I getting all bent out of shape because of a trivial thing?  May the peace of God rule in my heart and filter my thoughts so that I can quickly give thanks for His name, His character, and the plan He is working out.

Merry Christmas!

May you and yours have a lovely season of concealing and revealing boxes. However, let it be a reminder of your own heart box and what is in it.  Let the Lord pour His grace and strength into you so that you, in turn, can choose to think thanks about every circumstance in your life and express that thanks, first to God, and then to others.

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