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Giving Thanks in All Circumstances- #1000Speak

In the fifth grade, we were assigned to present short plays adapted from books we had read.  My best friend asked me to appear in her scene from Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place.

Corrie and her family were members of the resistance in Holland during World War I, and she spent time in a concentration camp for these activities (which included hiding Jews in a secret room in the family home).

Corrie and her sister Betsie had managed to sneak a Bible into the camp with them, and in our scene they were praying over a verse in First Thessalonians: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

It sounded crazy to Corrie to thank God for their current circumstances, and it probably sounds even crazier to us, but Betsie was able to point out two obvious blessings: that they were assigned to the same camp and that the Bible had not been taken from them.  But when she started to give thanks for the fleas in the barracks, Corrie thought she had taken leave of her senses–until later, when the women in their barracks were left untouched by the soldiers who would have raped them but for distaste for the fleas.

Most of us won’t have to deal with circumstances that are so dire, but being thankful in all circumstances is still a great attitude to have, and one I’ve been trying hard to cultivate.  Every night I start my prayers by thanking God for everything good about my day.  And I don’t mean big things–I mean things like a sunny day, or having time to work in my garden, or a nice dinner, or an easy time getting William’s homework done.  I’m not allowed to ASK for anything until I say thank you, and plenty of times I fall asleep before I make it to the end of the gratitude list!

They say that practice makes perfect, and practicing gratitude is no different.  When I started doing this I had a harder time coming up with things to be thankful for.  Now my list is long and I find myself looking forward to  this ritual.

I’ve even come to be grateful for trials, because they’ve led me to be compassionate towards others who suffer.  Financial problems, broken cars, difficulties in parenting, even the loss of our home and possessions to fire–all of these have presented me with opportunities to empathize with others who have suffered and have saved me from the temptation to judge them.

This post is part of #1000Speak, a monthly linkup with the goal of writing about and spreading compassion.  The topic for this month is Gratitude.  To see other posts, please click the picture below.

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Love, love, love, love:

Christians, this is your call;

Love your neighbor as yourself

For God loves us all.

We sang it in a round and we sang it well, because Sister Janice had us practice it before Mass began.  We sat on the hard metal folding chairs in the cafeteria/chapel and sang it over and over again, but we didn’t really understand it.  Not yet.

I remember well wondering–maybe even asking–just exactly how we were supposed to love everyone?  I couldn’t comprehend how I was supposed to love people I didn’t know, had never met, or maybe did know and didn’t like!  I seem to recall that my mother told me I would understand one day.

And she was right.  I don’t know exactly when my heart broke open and I started to care about everyone in the world, to love them–maybe not as much as I love myself, because that would be too demanding, wouldn’t it? But at least enough to feel empathy for them, to cry at their stories, to make allowances for their faults.

I’m not an especially nice person.  I think that most people reach a point in life where they too understand that kind of love.  And this love–agape–is the basis for compassion, for feeling with another person.

And yet wars, violence, hate, division–these do not go away.  Your Facebook Timeline is probably littered with memes that are the antithesis of love and compassion right this minute.  I think that’s because the demands of this love are too much for us and so we protect ourselves by “otherizing.”  If this person or that person or this group or that group is NOT LIKE US, we can tell ourselves we don’t really have to love them.  We can label them monsters, or heathens, or extremists, or deadbeats, or fanatics, or even liberals and conservatives.  Then we can get back to loving the people who are more like us.

Some say that Christianity–and please understand I am not advocating for imposing a state religion, just talking about what might happen if all Christians radically followed all the teachings of Christ–could never work to solve the problems of the world on a wide scale.  GK Chesterton made this famous response: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

What if we tried it, really tried it?  What if we let ourselves love?  How would the world be transformed?

And that reminds me of another song we used to sing when I was a little girl at St. Joseph School.

They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love;

Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

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Please visit the other blogs in the monthly #1000Speak linkup by clicking above!

And more great blogs to visit below at the #WorthRevisit link up hosted by Theology is a Verb and Reconciled to You!

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When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. ~ Mark 6:34

That’s the last line from yesterday’s Gospel, providing inspiration for me as I respond to this month’s 1000 Speak for Compassion link up.

This month’s topic is Acceptance, which Jesus demonstrates perfectly in the reading above.  See, the disciples had just come back from preaching and teaching and healing.  They were excited to tell Jesus about their adventures, and I’m sure he was excited to hear about them.  But all the people wouldn’t leave them alone.

Jesus knew his disciples needed to rest; they hadn’t even had time to eat anything.  He suggested they withdraw to a “desolate place” so they could be alone and rest.  But the anxious crowds figured out the plan, and pursued them on land as they traveled by boat.  So that when they came ashore, thousands of people (the same 5,000 people who are going to be fed miraculously later) were already there waiting for them.

Now, I don’t know about you, but compassion would NOT have been MY first reaction to this ambush! I would have been irritated, and maybe I would have gotten back in my boat and tried for another, more desolate location.  But this is where ACCEPTANCE comes in.

Jesus accepts his role as shepherd to these frightened sheep.  He gives up his plan of rest and relaxation to care for them.  Can we do the same?  When you are at work, and it’s almost time to leave, and another customer comes in with an annoying concern, can you ACCEPT that this is where you are supposed to be and have compassion for the needs of that person?  When your Facebook friend posts something you disagree with, can you ACCEPT that you have different opinions and have compassion for him? When you are trying desperately to get a moment alone, and your kids are following you around everywhere, can you ACCEPT that your role for this season is to take care of them and have compassion for them?  When your spouse seems demanding and you feel like you are already giving 120%, can you ACCEPT that part of marriage is offering compassion even when you aren’t really feeling it?

ACCEPTANCE is the first step to compassion in these situations.  We cannot “feel WITH” someone without first accepting our role and our call to be of service to that person.  Without acceptance, there is a wall of resentment that prevents true compassion.

#1000 SpeakWant to learn more about 1000Speak?  Start here.  And be sure to check out the other entries in this month’s linkup.

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