Thankful in all times?

I was working on the spiritual discipline of gratitude recently.

My body had fallen into another funk in which my irritating neurological symptoms were rearing their ugly heads.   The main culprit? Fatigue.

To my disgust, I was once again requiring afternoon naps. My nights were restless and regardless of how many hours, the amount of sleep I did get was never satisfying.  I was most frustrated that my activities had to be dramatically minimized to conserve the limited energy I had to expend.

It was a disheartening reminder that my health cannot be taken for granted.

And so the spiritual discipline of gratitude was called forth…reluctantly.   Honestly, this is when my inner pessimist comes out to play or in this case, protest.

Not easy being grateful when things are not going well, is it?  But what if you are dying?  During my week of intentional gratitude, I had an epiphany.  There, on the wall directly above one of my hospice patients were these words in big bold print from 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

Be thankful in all circumstances…


I was struck by the profundity of the image. Wow. Even in our dying days we are called as Christians to be grateful. Whether we are healthy or chronically ill, wealthy or destitute, living or dying we are to be thankful…in ALL circumstances.

One of my favorite gratitude stories is told by Corrie ten Boom in her book, The Hiding Place.  This Dutch woman along with her father, brother, sisters and other family members, helped Jews escape capture by the Germans in WWII. They were eventually arrested.  Along with her older sister Betsie, Corrie faced the perils of Dutch prisons and finally the Ravensbrueck concentration camp where her sister would die. (Learn more about Corrie here)

The sisters had miraculously smuggled a Bible into prison and used it as their primary source of strength to spiritually and emotionally endure.

After being moved to an overcrowded, flea-infested barracks, Bestie recalled the same scripture from 1 Thessalonian 5:18 and began listing off what she was grateful for: She and Corrie had not been separated but instead had been assigned to the same barracks.  The sisters had not been searched before entering their new quarters so the Bible, contraband that it was, remained in their possession. The barracks was overcrowded, but that meant they could share God’s light and love with more women.

And then Bestie gave thanks for the fleas.

“The fleas!” Corrie writes in The Hiding Place. “This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.'”

But Bestie insisted.  “Give thanks in all circumstances,” she reminded Corrie. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”

Much to Corrie’s surprise, a genuine gratitude did come, however.

It was Bestie who overheard a guard adamantly refuse to enter their barracks because of the flea infestation.  The fleas. Although the women had noticed an unusual absence of guards, all was now clear.  Since the guards were avoiding the fleas by remaining out of their building, the sisters had been able to hold regular worship for their fellow prisoners.

Yep.  Thank God for those tiny, irritating creatures.

I’ll end with these words from writer and poet, John Milton.

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. 


So practice being grateful every single day, no matter what comes your way.

Even the smallest blessing can be found.  Let your daily “transcendent moments of awe” not only enhance your experience of life and the world, but let them prepare you to gracefully face your own mortality.

Into your dying days, may gratitude be ever flowing.


A Pessimist in Recovery

Today’s Spiritual Prescription:

I am a recovering pessimist.

unhappy faceWay too often, however, I tumble off the wagon and roll into my old patterns of negative thinking. (Broken and Beautiful is a perfect example!)

Last week I was made painfully aware of how difficult it is to refrain from having a gloomier, darker outlook on life.

As I was leaving a skilled nursing facility I could not help but glance in each resident’s room as I cruised down the hall.

In one room there was a mountain of small stuffed animals carefully stacked on top of an individual’s dresser.  Without missing a beat, I said to the facility employee moving past me “I can’t imagine having ALL those eyes stare at me at night.”

It was a weak attempt at getting her into my car of trash talking someone’s conceivably weird behavior.

To make things worse, would you believe she had the nerve to suggest that all those eyes were “looking out” for their owner, protecting her against the “boogie man”?

Oh suuure…. isn’t that sweet.  Little furry protectors.

Then clearly the person is paranoid, I suggested.

In was no use.  With each negative slant I had on that mound of stuffed animals and the resident who piled them, the caregiver had something positive to say.

And before I realized it, I was an official jerk wondering why I had, once again, been drawn to the dark side. Why had I been so set on ferreting out the slightest negative perspective—and on stuff animals of all things?

What a waste of time and energy for my entire being!

And now for your Spiritual Prescription:                    

Don’t go to the dark side!0910131602

Resist seeing the world in a gloomy, dreary light.  It is a bad habit that impacts your body, mind and spirit!

Proverbs 17:22 puts it this way : A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Don’t allow your spirit to be crushed by dark imagining.

Notice and fight off the temptation to negatively respond to life around you.

We miss so much of the beauty around us when we do.

(I saw this happy chalkboard message on my way home that day.  A nice reminder to keep working toward a joyful heart.)













Broken AND Beautiful!

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.    

Psalm 34:18  (NIV)

gold bowl

 I am my own worst enemy.

My internal critic easily and frequently highlights my shortcomings while downplaying my gifts.

As you can imagine, I often feel inadequate.  Too many mistakes.  Too many missed opportunities.  Not enough drive.

“Broken”, my critic tells me.  That’s what I am.

In my spiritual walk I am called to nurture this critic and to pray for my internal enemy.  So, I love on her daily with words of affirmation and encourage her to remove those crap-colored glasses from which she negatively views me. But her stream of criticism is tough to shut off.

, this wonderful Japanese word defined above, has given me a lovely fuel against this critic.

Yes, dear Critic, I may indeed be broken. 

But I AM all the more BEAUTIFUL because of my brokenness!  Through my faith, I have been repaired with a Divine Love by the Potter, Herself.  I do not need to be perfect to bring God’s light into the world.  In fact, it is through my faults and imperfections that I am better able to serve and to relate to others.

I am broken…AND beautiful. 

In a world so broken, may we realize the beauty within ourselves as well as each other.


Twelve hours later:
Well, what do you know?  Sadly, my Critic seems to have a lot to say about other people, too. She was busy making unnecessary comments while grocery shopping this morning.  Can’t seem to take her anywhere! 😉

Yep, like most of us who are self-critical, I am guilty of judging others too. (sigh…)

My current cure for this?  When that critic is happily pointing out what she perceives as another person’s faults/shortcomings, I simply reply, “Beautiful!”

Yes, dear Critic.  That person may or may not be broken. But he or she is certainly BEAUTIFUL!