Th(i)nkful That It Turned Out Differently

Open Hand Principle

My husband David has an message called Keeping an Open Hand.  In it he describes how we are allowed to clutch our hand around two things.clutched hand Those two things are 1) our relationship with God and 2) our commitment to do His will for our lives.

Everything else is to be kept in an open hand.Hand open

When you meditate on that, it exposes how we often clutch things that need to be released.

Expectations, for example, are things we need to hold loosely.  If we let a dream or wish morph into a targeted goal that drives us, pushes aside competing loves, and creates an expectation that is not God’s will, we will struggle terribly if God calls on us to release it and receive what IS His will instead. Best to dream while  keeping a neutral disposition. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Fullness of joy doesn’t come from chasing my dreams; it comes from being in His presence.

Expectations

Have you ever thought back to things that you prayed so fervently for that didn’t happen?  I have. Big White HouseI remember when David was practicing law as a young new lawyer in south-eastern Pennsylvania that I prayed earnestly that we would be able to buy a large white historic house on the outskirts of town.  I even made a name for it and dreamed about how we would raise our family there and use it for hospitality.  It was a great dream, just not the Lord’s will for us.

That white house is just an example.  What about when we pray for success, health, fame, or even the salvation of others? Our desires and requests, although seemingly right, may not be what God wants for us. Maybe He will answer our requests totally differently than what we expect, or at a very different time in our life.

Romans 8:26 and 34 mention that the Spirit and Jesus Christ both make intercession for us. I love envisioning my prayers going through that grid.  I pray earnestly, but I cannot see the full picture. He can. We may not understand why He does things the way He does until glory, but we can trust that He does them well.  He is sovereign and trustworthy for me, His child.

If I turn my dreams into strong expectations I will almost chronically be an unthankful person because God’s choice is so seldom what I would have chosen.  But if I can yield my hopes to Him and leave my dreams at His feet, I will have no problem finding contentment and can even celebrate the path He has chosen for me.

 

Th(i)nkful in Simply Obeying

Zulu ladiesNurturing my relationship with God and earnestly renewing my thoughts so I can discover His good, acceptable and perfect will for my life (Romans 12:2) can bring simple joy and contentment.

These are good truths on which I am reflecting, especially as David and I prepare to move back to South Africa to work among the Zulu.  We are excited to learn the Zulu language and get acclimated to life in Amanzimtoti because God has shown us His will, and that directive trumps all other dreams and wishes.

What about you? How are you expressing your dreams to God?  Is your disposition summed up in “not my will, but Yours be done?”  As with gardening and athletics and most worthwhile things in life, His way is not the easy way, but it is the best.  And often as we grow older and look back, we can be th(i)nkful for unanswered prayers.  Our amazing God, Infinite Mind and Wisdom, has designed bigger and better plans, purposes, and pictures.

P.S. If you’re interested in a copy of David’s Keeping an Open Hand message, just email me.

 

Th(i)nkful and Take 5

Even a Child Can Do It

Take 5 3

Our son Nick and his family seem like a perfect family.  They look like they must always be kind to each other; their children are probably good and kind and share all the time.

Well, if you are human, you realize that is not the case.  They struggle like every family struggles.  There is always an ongoing fight to do what is right.

A while back one of their children developed a real rage problem.  I am the Yaya (what my grandchildren call me), and on one visit even I saw that this was a real difficult puzzle.  Nick and Julia asked us to pray for them to have wisdom and discernment, and so we did earnestly. I am sharing about this with their permission and with the hope that their story could help others.

One particular evening the anger again came to a head.  Take 5 1Nick and Julia had been reading different things to try and find some answers, and they had come up with a plan.  As Nick started to talk to his child he laid down some rules that the child needed to follow when he began to feel great anger.  The idea was to help him get control of these overwhelming feelings he was experiencing.  They called it “Take 5.”

Take 5

  1. Take deep breaths
  2. Count from 1 to 10, and then count backward from 10 to 1
  3. Say one thing that you are thankful for
  4. Practice smiling even if you don’t feel like it
  5. Pray to God for help

The first two cause a person to break from the aggravating situation, slow things down, and let off some steam.  But Nick and Julia chose being th(i)nkful as the exercise that tends to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).  Forcing yourself into a thought-search for positive things tends to eat the stuffings out of anger.

Take 5 has helped tremendously!  Not only has it helped their child control his anger outbursts much better, but also the parents, and grandparents (!) have benefited from this exercise.  It is simple enough for a young child to implement, but effective enough for anyone, young or old. Hearing this little guy pray to God for help is so inspiring. We, too, can pray to God for help and He hears and answers us.

After a season of their child experiencing victory, Nick and Julia happened upon a candy bar that was called Take 5.  🙂  Take5One evening their little guy was allowed to stay up after the others had gone to bed, and just Daddy, Mommy, and the little victor each got to enjoy a Take 5 bar. Hearing about this made my heart smile.

You Choose Th(i)nkfulness

Just like a little child seeking to get control over his or her emotions and choosing one thing that they are thankful for, we as adults can combat both the flurry and fury of negative emotions by choosing to be thankful. It requires a choice.

So, I shared the Take 5 concept with a friend recently and within a day she texted me that she had put it to use. At the end she commented, “Take 5 is not just for 4-year-olds!”

Thanks requires choice.  

Being Th(i)nkful Promotes Healing

Being Th(i)nkful at Midnight

Psalm 119:62 says “At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You because of Your righteous judgments.” Often when I am not able to sleep, I get up and go to the kitchen, make a cup of tea, read in my Bible and begin to journal my th(i)nkful lists.

Write it down

It brings healing for my soul.

Writing down how God is doing wondrous things from infinite to infinitesimal builds healing in my broken pieces and hope. He is infinite mind and infinite power and is the sovereign designer and ruler over all of my circumstances.

Thinking Thanks About My Trauma

A car hijacking at gunpoint and being awoken by someone stealing inside our house while we were sleeping were some of the worst traumatic incidents of my life. Many others have gone through much more difficult scenarios.Members Of Support Group Sitting In Chairs Having Meeting

It is interesting to experience this after going through some trauma.  Every time you retell your traumatic story, you get rid of a little more of the sting.  An old Swedish proverb states: “A burden shared is a burden halved; a joy shared is a joy doubled.”

If you’re of a th(i)nkful mindset, you can strengthen other people by sharing 1) the Scripture that came to mind to guide and comfort you in the furnace, 2) the ways in which your trauma could have been worse, and 3) the ways that you’ve become stronger and wiser as a result of the test, and 4) the ways in which your relationships with God and others have become deeper and less self-serving.

Passing Along Th(i)nkful Skills

I had this happen to me recently in Egypt.  A couple had gone through traumatic incidents in South Sudan were they served at an orphanage. Seeking to build relationships, David and I chatted with them about some of the traumatic experiences we had in South Africa. I mentioned my hijacking incident and said that Philippians 4:8 had been an anchor for my thoughts.

Although my hijacking incident did not end in death or severe pain, I had been tempted to think out the “what if’s.”  The words “think on what is true” arrested my panicking thoughts.  I was so thankful for how the truth of God’s Word helped heal me from my trauma.  Focusing on verses concerning God’s sovereignty build my confidence in His meticulous providence – all the details of my life are orchestrated for my Christlikeness and His glory.  There was no alternate ending to my trauma; it was what He planned.  In fact, I am immortal, invincible and indestructible until God is finished with me.  And when His story called “Karin’s life” is finished, there is nothing that will keep me here!

The next day our new friends came up to us and shared how something difficult had happened with some of their friends just the night before, and how they used Philippians 4:8 to encourage and comfort them. God’s Word had ministered not only to me, but sharing how I had been helped by God’s word, had ministered to others. Praise Him!

 

It’s a good thing to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name,
O most High. Psalm 92:1

promoting health 1

We cannot think thanks about our trauma unless we trust that God is sovereign in all our affairs. We see in the scriptures that thinking the way God desires us to, trusting in Him and acknowledging Him in our ways, brings healing to us.  That healing begins in our soul and can minimize physical stress-induced illness as well.

Following Proverbs 3:5-7 brings us to Proverbs 3:8. “It will be healing to your flesh, and refreshment to your bones.”

Trust in the Lord’s sovereign design, purposes and control, and then think thanks, no matter how bitter your grief. Allow grace to help you process your trauma through the grid of th(i)nkfulness. Ultimate physical healing is when we receive our perfect bodies in heaven.

Th(i)nkful is an adjective and used just like thankful.  The difference is to simply highlight that to be truly thankful, you have to choose to think thanks and express it.

705D3C1A-60A4-47BA-9FA1-A7BDFAB64A2E

Th(i)nkful (adj) ~ choosing to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in your life and express that thanks orally or in a written form.

ALMOST ~ AM LOST

On Israel’s Shore – Caesarea Maritima

Herod the Great built Caesarea in about 10 BC.  He did the impossible – conquered an unruly sea and built jetties and an entire port on the Mediterranean Sea, complete with lighthouse, temples, a palace, and a hippodrome for chariot races and gladiator games. This city was home for Rome’s leaders – Pilate, Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa I and II.

About 30 years after Jesus died, this city was the setting for Acts 26:28 where the imprisoned Apostle Paul gave his defense to King Herod Agrippa II and Festus.  Paul skillfully related his testimony, his story of conversion, and gave a reason for his life’s commitment to spreading the gospel.  In response, Agrippa uttered his famous words, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian!”

The Problem With “Almost”

Our guide for our recent study trip to Israel chose that setting to share his own personal testimony.  As we stood cooling off our feet in the beautiful Mediterranean, he described that as a rebellious young man, he decided he was finished with church and God and was leaving home to live his own life.

As a token gesture, he went to his home church to say “good-bye.”  That evening, the sermon was on Acts 26:28.  The speaker emphasized the irony of the word ALMOST.  If you switch the L and the M in that word, you come up with a related concept ~ AM LOST.  Being almost a believer is the same as being totally lost. How very, very sad.

IMG_5978

The result in our guide’s life was that God’s Spirit used that to break his rebellion and catapult him into seeking an intimate life-giving relationship with the Lord.  Eventually he went into ministry and has been training church leaders for 25 years.

We climbed up a small hill from the beach and walked out on to the very stone pavement where Paul spoke these words. How sobering to realize the ongoing living power coming from the Biblical account that took place right where we stood.

And how amazing to think that Paul’s words to “give thanks always for all things” were written during this imprisonment.  I am th(i)nkful for our brother Paul’s faithful testimony during that long test that God sovereignly allowed in his life. How often we become very impatient with how God has written our story.  We chafe and complain because it is hard for us and we don’t see the reason for the difficulties. Ever spend three years in prison for no good reason and wonder what God is doing?

Th(i)nkful For Grace

One of the outstanding lessons for me is that I am so incredibly thankful for “grace” – unmerited help and assistance from God.  That same grace that helped Paul through all he experienced as he was imprisoned and beaten is also fully available to me.  The grace that helped our guide respond to the challenge of Acts 26:28 is freely presented to all who desire to believe. Th(i)nkful that God is so merciful and faithful, quick to forgive, and slow to wrath.

Irony of the Aqueducts

Herod’s masterpiece on the Mediterranean – like so many other things he built in Israel – is in ruins, barely visible, just toppled rocks that beg for imagination.  The Caesarean aqueductsIMG_5834 that used to bring down fresh water from the foothills of Mt. Carmel are now dried and cracked.

But God’s living water, reflected in the life, words, and ministry of Paul, is still flowing steadily for all who would drink. People like our guide are still brought to life by the words of the living water uttered on that stone platform in Caesarea years ago.  And the flow, growing stronger and stronger these days, is reaching into the spiritual deserts of countries and communities that have never heard. Sola Deo Gloria!

Lives Still Transformed

Paul gave a compelling testimony of the saving and transforming power of Jesus Christ. So did our guide in Israel.  Your story is powerful, and no one can argue with it. Our friend Josh Chapmon is a videographer who has a ministry helping Christians record videos of their testimony simply using a smart phone to upload them to the internet. Check out God’s story in the life of Chris Dew!

 

 

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to be a Christian.”  And Paul said, “I would to God, that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.”

Acts 26:28-29

Th(i)nkful in Gethsemane

Journey to Gethsemane

Jerusalem. David and I were experiencing a dream trip come true.  Someone had provided a way for us to join a small study group to Israel.  All my life I had desired to see the places where Jesus walked and to have my eyes opened to the events of the Bible in an extraordinary manner.  I was full of thinking thanks as we actually walked along the old Jerusalem walls, into the Kidron valley, and up the Mount of Olives into the Garden of Gethsemane. The olive trees were astounding!

As we entered I realized that it was a lot smaller than I had imagined.  Probably one reason for that was the Church of All Nations that now occupies much of the area where the garden had originally been.  The word Gethsemane means olive press.  Since the Mount of Olives is covered with olive tress, that is a most fitting name.  The garden seemed more cultivated than I expected, probably more than it was when Jesus and His disciples had gone there 2,000 years ago.  IMG_5053A fence enclosed the garden, protecting the ancient olive trees, and beautiful flowers were growing in between the old trees.  I could see walkways, but people were not allowed to enter.

Th(i)nkful for Freddie

Not sure if I was super-exhausted from travel and walking many miles a day, or because I was truly aware of the immensity of what happened on that piece of ground, but I began to cry.  Tears were streaming down my face as I peered over the fence that surrounded the garden.  I was so very th(i)nkful that Jesus “saw it through.”  For my sake, he endured through the arrest and the illegal trial that night, and then the beatings, the mocking, and the agony of the cross the next day.  The overwhelming agony was sadly juxtaposed with the underwhelmed cluelessness of his disciples who were not even able to stay awake and pray with Him.  I don’t expect I would have done any better as I so often yield to the frailty of my flesh.

IMG_5057

A man inside the garden walked up to me.  He noticed my tears and was gentle and kind.  He said that he had been the gardener there for 21 years, and his father for 40 years before him.  His name was Freddie; his father was from Romania and his mother an American Jew. He asked me to wait a minute while he went to get something.  He returned with some small sprigs clipped from the oldest olive tree in the garden!  As we continued to chat with him, we found out that Freddie’s mother was very sick so David asked if he could pray for her, and he did.

Some of the olive trees there were so huge and gnarled.  I had never seen such trees in all my life.  I wondered if in fact some of them could actually have been there 2,000 years ago when Jesus was there?

2000 year old olive tree

Rosemary in Gethsemane

IMG_5454As an epilogue, I wanted to mention that someone once told me that there was a lot of the herb rosemary in the Garden of Gethsemane.  That connected with me.  I love rosemary, and to think that it may have been growing around the area where Jesus prayed brought me joy.  Perhaps he stroked His fingers over the rosemary and smelled it like I love to do. So I was on the lookout for that as I walked around the garden.

Sure enough I found it on the north side.  It was neatly planted in a row, but I am sure that when Jesus was there it grew more wildly.

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples. Sit here, while I go over there and pray. And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, My soul is very sorrowful , even to death; remain here, and watch with Me. 

Matthew 26:36-38

 

 

 

What is Th(i)nkful?

Definition

Th(i)nkful: a determined choice to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in my life and to express that thanks orally or in a written form.

So…practically what does that really look like?

30,000 Feet Up

In counseling we are taught a principle to use when helping someone who is, as we say, “lost in Manhattan.”  They’re in a maze of tall troubles; they spin around disoriented, feeling lost and hopeless.  How can we help them?

2018-4-17

It is called getting them “30,000 feet up.”  Imagine yourself pulling them up to 30,000 feet and then looking down at their problem – viewing things, you might say, from God’s viewpoint.  The giants are now small.  You can look down on streets and see the main roads out of the city.

Getting a better and higher perspective on what really matters can be the key that gives hope and helps us cope. What is the big, big picture? We were born, we live, and we will die. What is going to really matter in the long run?  Will it matter 100 years from now?  And for all the darkness in the city of my life, where are the lights?  Where are the signposts?  Who put them there for me, and how can I tell Him “thank you?”

Th(i)nkful Created

I stumbled over the th(i)nkful concept while going through a difficult time in my life.  I knew from scripture that I was to give thanks in every circumstance, but I was hard-put to do just that. As I studied out the etymology of the word thanks, I discovered that it came from the ancient root word tong which meant to think/ feel.  Expressing thanks is based on 1) stopping, 2) reflecting on your circumstances, and 3) choosing a positive thing on which to focus.  Thank comes after think.  Expressing thanks doesn’t just happen naturally, and especially not when times are hard.

So th(i)nkful was created to encourage us all to forge a life-pattern of repeatedly stopping, thinking, choosing the good, and expressing our thankfulness for, and our thankfulness to … the One who is the source of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).

This life-pattern is being th(i)nkful, first thinking, then choosing the good, then giving thanks.  Expressing the thankful thoughts, either orally or writing them down, enforces the brain neuron pathway. Every time you push yourself to be th(i)nkful you secure that brain pattern a little bit more. You choose to focus on the things you can give thanks for.  You also need to give the gift of your gratitude to the One who deserves it.  We are thankful to, not just thankful for.

Th(i)nkful List:

  • I have a brain that allows me to think
  • Phil. 4:13 promises me strength to obey God when He asks me to give thanks always
  • the blessings that follow gratitude, like peace, contentment
  • discovering joys and pleasure that I take for granted, like when pain goes away
  • th(i)nkful journals that allow me to record my thankful thoughts
  • reading the journals later remind me to continue to think thanks in the present
  • focusing on my blessings, minimizes my difficulties

 

2018-4-17 1

 

I choose to focus on the silhouette in this picture.  Daming Lake, Jinan, China

Giving Thanks through Barbed Wire

Giving Thanks through Barbed Wire

I love this photo taken recently by a friend in Scotland.  30411957_2490386290987266_4279298344771125248_nThe rainbow of God’s promise is clearly seen through the barbed wire.  The wire was put there for a reason you can be sure, and most probably served its purpose.

Life is full of ‘barbed wire’ that looks ugly and threatening, but has a useful purpose.  The concept that I take away from this picture is that I can see such beauty through the barbed wire. When we are able to focus on the promises of God, exemplified by the rainbow, and be thankful through the difficulties we are facing, there is hope. How do we “focus on the promises of God and be thankful?”

Pastoral Advice on the How-To of Thankfulness.

Dick Hester is our “pastor to missionaries” at Biblical Ministries Worldwide.Hester's  He and his dear wife, Carol, have many years of pastoral experience and have chosen to minister in the twilight of their years to missionaries all over the world.  They get on flights and fly to the uttermost parts to serve and encourage.

One of the things that Dick does is send out prayer prompters to edify and inspire us to think and live godly lives.  I was reading one that he sent out on the topic of thanksgiving and found his comments quite profound:

“Saying “Thank You” to God is an area that’s hard to measure. If I’d ask you how thankful you are in your day to day life you’d probably say “OK”. There are a lot of sins in the Bible which you know are sins: Adultery. It’s pretty black and white. Stealing. You don’t walk out of a store with something you didn’t pay for and say, “I  think I might have stolen something.” You know you did it. But this whole area of giving thanks or not giving thanks to God, or being a thankful person or not, is a hard one to measure and we may not know exactly where we are. But it is very, very important and needs to be a fundamental part of our life.

Colossians 2:6,7 tells us that,  “…as we have received Christ Jesus as Lord, we are to walk in Him…” As born again believers, we are to live like a Christian, according to the Word of God. We are  “…rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith as we have been taught; abounding—overflowing— with thanksgiving.” We are to keep growing when we become His child and here’s how: do things we ought to do (obey) and thank God, profusely.

Overflowing with gratitude is foundational to our Christian life. Study the Word of God and you will find that you communicate that you love God by simply saying, “Thank You, Lord”. The more we say that to Him, the more we’re saying, “I love You” and the more we bring glory to Him. We’re to love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength, and one of the major ways we do that is to say, “Thank You, Thank You!” for what He’s done for you. Our goal ought to be to have an attitude of gratitude all the time about everything.

Ephesians 5:20:  “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father…” What is God’s will for us?”  “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18) God tremendously blesses the ones who develop this basic discipline. One of my greatest joys in life is giving things to my kids. Do you know when I don’t like it? When they take it for granted; when they just assume. Nothing makes me warmer inside for people to say, “Thank you; I love you”, and the more grateful they are, the more I want to give.

Think about it: God created us, blessed us with spiritual blessings, sent His Son to die for us to pay the penalty for our sin. We do not have to do anything—no strings attached. We simply receive Him, believe Him, and God says, “I’ll adopt you into My family, bless you with every spiritual blessing, give you the gift of the Holy Spirit, and you get to go to heaven forever.” We don’t have to do anything if we don’t want to, because it’s a free gift. When we thank God and thank Him for everything, we bring glory to Him and He loves it. He blesses even more, those who thank Him.

Gratefulness is a character quality. I think the ultimate thanks will be for the gift of heaven. We should thank Him for that every day. If I died today I’m going to heaven. My prayer as a kid was, “Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray my Lord, my soul to take. Amen!” Every day say, “Thank You, Lord, for giving me the gift of eternal life. Thank you that I am saved, and I’m going to heaven and live with You forever.”

We thank God for our food before our meals. Have you ever turned the key to start your car and thanked the Lord for your car? Not everybody has a car! Do you thank God for your house when you walk in? For your clothes, shoes, job, ministry? I know I am blessed more than 90% of the world. We take so much for granted. God says we should thank Him always, continuously, for everything. Make that your goal, for all things in your life.   First We Pray!  Give thanks!”

God delights to bless His children. I wonder how much we hold back further blessing by simply failing to say “thank you so much.” I wonder how much longer we stay tangled in the barbed wire because we haven’t pushed through and thanked Him for it. Expressing thanks benefits how we process all of life, and is done in obedience to His commands, but it is also a trigger for His sustaining grace, delivering power, and further blessing.

30411957_2490386290987266_4279298344771125248_n

 

Godliness with Contentment is Great Gain

Contentment

The Battle for Contentment

Contentment is being totally at peace with having nothing more and nothing else.  It is therefore the greatest wealth a person can have.  Contentment is simply wanting only what I already have.  There is no angst; no imagining, no further search.

Have you ever felt totally content?  OK, maybe after a big meal on a soft couch when you are dosing off to sleep. Most internet pictures for contentment have people relaxing in tranquil surroundings. But have you ever chosen, independent of circumstances, to be content?  It seems almost impossible for us as humans.  The relentless stream of advertisements on TV or websites are designed to ensure that we are never content; after all, one week of nationwide contentment could destroy our economy!

We all, it seems, have the “dis-ease of discontent.”  Our hearts long for more comfort and convenience, greater perfection in our things and relationships.  We try to satisfy this internal quest for harmony and heaven by relentlessly striving to achieve it here and now.  So, we never have enough or have it exactly right. We are discontent.

The Source of Contentment is Within

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, writes that the “godliness with contentment” mentioned in 1 Timothy 6:6 is the best virtue combination a believer can have.  The first is vertical; the second horizontal.  Both come from within. Both are independent of our outward circumstances and physical conditions. Both communicate, “all I need is a deep relationship with God – not much else matters.”  Lloyd-Jones points out that this brings great gain, a phrase not often used in Scripture. Contentment is the greatest wealth.

Contentment and Ambition

But are we to become a blob? Can athletes and scholars and artists achieve great things while being content?  The Scripture is clear that we can have godly ambition.

  • Firstly, we should have an insatiable quest to know, love and serve Him with our whole heart and life (Psalm 27:4. 63:1, Philippians 3:10).  I must never become content in my spiritual life.
  • Secondly, we should push to wholeheartedly do with excellence things that honor God by reflecting His image in us (1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:23-24).  We must be content with the gifts, appearance, power and possessions He has given us, but then use them all wholeheartedly for His glory.

Ungodly ambition is the drive for fame, validation, power, wealth, possessions and pleasures to fill up a personal void with the stuff that promises happiness and satisfaction … and that stuff will never be enough.  This is why Puritan writers felt that ambition was one of the most deceitful sins.  Many leaders “attempt great things for God” out of unholy ambition.

Being Th(i)nkful Brings Contentment

When I learn the discipline of thinking thanks, contentment oozes slowly into my heart. Gratefulness focuses on what I have, not on what I lack.  It takes away the fuel of discontent; the fire goes out.  Nothing really changes in my life, except for what I am thinking about and expressing.  I choose to be th(i)nkful.

Southern-Africa-Panorama-MapDavid and I are moving back to South Africa in a few months. We will go alone to this land; we will leave family behind.  We plan to study the Zulu language diligently, and then teach the Bible, theology and counseling to emerging Zulu leaders, and help them begin a church-planting movement.

As I am thinking about the changes that lie ahead, there are days when I struggle to think thanks.  I am tempted to think about precious children and grandchildren who will be out of reach.  That is so hard and heavy for me.  But when I think about how God has given me joys in the journey that are undoubtedly His fingerprints of mercy, I am th(i)nkful.  He will help us.  He will measure out grace. I have already started a th(i)nkful list about our move.

Join me in the discipline of thinking thanks so that together we can cultivate contentment, and in the process become more godly.

Godliness with Contentment is of Great Gain ~ I Timothy 6:6

Th(i)nkful Tree

My Friend’s Th(i)nkful Tree

IMG_E4933

Back in October, I spoke at a ladies’ retreat and shared about the concept of being th(i)nkful.  There was a precious lady present at that retreat that took the th(i)nkful idea and owned it for herself.

In this post I want to share what she did.

IMG_4920My friend bought a leaf cutter from Hobby Lobby craft store (using the 40% coupon) :).  She then went to Walmart and asked if she could have paint-color samples.  She took the paint-color sample papers and cut out ‘leaves.’

She would gather spring colors, or fall colors, or just do all one color depending on what she wanted .  She cut out quite a few leaves and then had a good thin permanent marker to write on the leaf.  Every day she would write the date and one thing she was thankful for on a paper leaf.  She then would attach the leaf to a little “tree” that she had made.
IMG_E4919It displayed the leaves.  IMG_4930She brought the tree and the leaves to show me one evening when we were speaking at a missions conference at her church.

My heart was so encouraged.  Here she had taken the principle of thinking thanks and put feet to it in her own life.  She shared that this had helped her so much in establishing a thought pattern of looking for things to be th(i)nkful for.  Just perfect!!!!

What Do You Do to Promote Gratitude?

Having a heart that is full of gratitude is not a natural thing.  It is the work of the Spirit that helps us develop such a heart.  It is so good for us to learn to be thankful for all things, whether good or bad.  Our hearts can choose be thankful and express that thankfulness in clever ways that inspire others.

IMG_4928Th(i)nkful:  a determined choice to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in my life and to express that thanks orally or in a written form.

 

 

 

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

3225A19C-14FA-4831-93DB-FA93EB775F29

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.

FA4125C6-8379-4D6E-B7DA-EEA8C5C94992