Radically Give Thanks in All Things

Thanksgiving, Bible quotes,

“In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”[1]

You know that Thanksgiving tradition of going around the dinner table asking each person for what he or she is most thankful?  One easy way for me to respond would be to say, “I’m thankful for my family.”  Simple and, perhaps, cliché – yet, this gratitude is so profoundly, undeniably, and unshakably true that I do feel compelled to say it aloud whenever situations allow.  May I write out right now: Thank You, God, for the awesome blessing of my family and friends!!!

Yes.  It is good to express gratitude out loud for good people and genuinely praise God for them.  But…

Radical Thanks

In the Bible verse that I quoted from St. Paul, it doesn’t say to give thanks for the nice things in your life.  It says to give thanks in all circumstances.  And this calls to my mind the words of Jesus, who reminded us that it is easy to love the people who love us – but what about the people who hate us?  Christ calls us to cast into the deep, to not be bound to what comes naturally to us as creatures of the flesh, but to transcend instinct and do what is supernatural, what is divine, responding in accordance to the spirit within us.

As we, then, are radically called to love our enemies, we are also radically called to give thanks in all circumstances.  Yup, all of them.  If we are in the midst of an unjust situation, then we are called to be thankful for the opportunity to practice virtue, to right a wrong, and to share God’s compassion.  If we are in the midst of grieving the death of a loved one, then we are called to be thankful for having known and loved this precious person, who is thankfully not lost, but alive in Christ for all eternity.

This gratitude doesn’t mean that we are called to be complacent.  We pray for the courage to change the things that we can… but we also pray for the serenity to accept the things that we cannot change.

One Big Thing That I Cannot Change

Continue reading

Brave

I feel very brave posting this.  Three and a half years of blogging here and I have been careful not to show pictures of myself straight on.  In fact, you’ll only find two.  Yet, here I am sharing a video of myself.

Why?  Right now, I’m really not sure!  A video of me reciting one of my poems with no makeup and no video touchup software?  (That would have to be some pretty awesome touchup software…)

But… there is something to be said about showing your wounds…

Being a Christian isn’t about standing on a soapbox yelling out quotes from Scripture or pointing at people “in sin” and warning them that they better change their ways.  Christianity is about Christ – and Christ is about love.  Christ is love incarnate.  So, if I want to share Christ with others, then I must not only love them in my heart and my actions, but also share with them my love – which includes my suffering.

When St. Thomas doubted the Resurrection, Christ came before him and showed him his wounds, let him put his fingers right into them.  We all have wounds.  We all have sufferings.  And we shouldn’t be afraid of them or even ashamed of them.  I am not proud of my defective gene (you won’t see me in any kind of SMA pride parade or whatever) but I am not ashamed to have a defective gene – or to even call part of me defective.  For that is the truth.

By sharing the truth of who I am – all of me – I hope that you may come to better know my love and, through that love, to know Christ.  God doesn’t make junk.  Everybody is sacred – every body is sacred.  And, sometimes, it is through our wounds that the glory of who we are is made known.

Now, remember mercy…

© 2017 Christina Chase

Inspire

Breathe in deeply.

Over the last six weeks, what with pneumonia, then bronchitis, and menstrual flow for 22 days (and counting) I’ve been struggling.  Being as small as I am (58 pounds) with a twisted torso from scoliosis and weakened respiratory muscles – oh, and that whole spinal-muscular-atrophy-never-walked-can’t-move-my-arms-anymore thing – everything is just harder.  I thank God for the improvements, truly, deeply, and pray that no more difficulties may come – all the while knowing that there are so many people out there who have it so much worse.

And I’ve been thinking… Through the choking on mucus, pain and bleeding, shortness of breath… Don’t I believe in God’s will?  I have prayed that only God’s Positive, Perfect, Holy, Ordained Will be done.  Not God’s Permissive Will, the things that aren’t part of His ideal plan, but that He will make work out for the best, but God’s Perfect Will, what He ideally wants.  If being sick is exactly what God intends for the perfection of my life-never-ending, then so be it.  God sees the Big Picture, which I cannot, as I’m stuck in the little details of the day – and the Big Picture is an exquisite Masterpiece.

Now, I say, “So be it” or “Thy will be done” – but, do I mean it?

If I mean it, then I should not only thank God for the times of improvement – pneumonia cleared up, the bronchitis gone – but also thank God for the new difficulties: the ongoing cramping, bloating that makes it hard for me to breathe and causes my heart to race, the loss of blood, the anxiety that there may be something terribly wrong in my reproductive system, whatever new cold might pop up.  I should groan and nearly scream in pain, I should struggle for air, and I should say, “Thank You.”  And I’m serious here.  I’ve tried it, and I have to say, it’s much easier said than done.  I believe in the principle, I believe it’s a good thing to do, to be grateful for God’s Perfect Will… But, it’s another struggle.

I am trying to learn everything that I can from this trial and these tribulations.  I really do believe that there is a treasure here for me to discover, that there is richly useful knowledge and experience for me to gain.  As a character said recently on a television program called Nashville, “Pain is valuable.”  That’s true for country music writers, but it’s also true for all writers and artists.  Perhaps, it’s true for every human being.  I know it’s true for me.  All of this will bring me closer to my Creator, into a more deeply and personal and intimate relationship with my Savior.  Thus united and connected with God in my heart, I can then better be inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit to receive God’s love and wisdom and to be creative, to share the reality of Christ and the glory of God with others.

Being grateful for pain is extremely difficult and, being only human, I don’t know if I can really do it.  But, there is another little lesson that I have learned in all of this, a practical one that is slightly easier to do, but no less important…

Even though it’s more difficult to breathe because my body hurts so much, I have to take good care of my lungs and stay healthy.  So I have learned, and I continually remind myself, that, even when in pain, I must breathe in deeply.  And this does feel something like gratitude…

That’s the lesson I’m sharing here in this post today:

Even when in pain,

Breathe in deeply.

© 2017 Christina Chase

Gratitude

If you are not a grateful person, then you will never be great.

If you do not appreciate the people in your life, then you cannot receive their amazing value – only their cost.

If you do not say “Thank you” when you didn’t get what you wanted, but, rather, what you needed, then you won’t know true joy if you do get what you want.

Giving thanks is easy when you are surrounded by a delicious feast and a happy family.  But, how easy is it to be thankful if you are sadly without home, without family, or without feasting?  The awesome, powerful thanksgiving that transcends the 4th Thursday of November is experienced by those who do not lack gratitude even when life is hard.  For these are the people who recognize life itself as an eternal gift.crucifix-2-flash

The life of your soul is not a gift that was thoughtlessly or cheaply purchased.

It is given by the Giver with pure love…

Live your Thank You by loving – and let your unconditional loving be your joy.  May God help me as I strive to fully live with gratitude…

 

For more of my posts on Thanksgiving and giving thanks, please click and read

One Year of Blogging – and Still Thankful

Giving Thanks (While Gazing upon the Crucifix)

Giving Thanks – Eucharist

© 2016 Christina Chase

A Prayer before the Feeding

Life-of-Pix-free-stock-restaurant-glasses-tables-LEEROY

Picture it:

An elderly couple sit in a restaurant with a third person at their table.  This person appears to be their adult daughter, but she is disabled, needing a wheelchair to sit with them.  Her head is flopped over on her left shoulder and she appears to have a squished torso and a hunched back.  Her arms are extremely skinny and do not move.  The elderly man, gray and balding, sits next to her and feeds her.  She asks for something from her plate and he stops eating his own food to give her some of hers.  Carefully, he positions the fork into her tilted mouth so that she can close her mouth around it and chew.  Sometimes, it falls off of the fork before entering her mouth and spills down onto the napkin tucked into her shirt.

This is me with my parents every day – visible to the public when we go out to eat.  For years, when I was no longer able to feed myself, I didn’t want to eat in public.  We didn’t go to restaurants.  At social gatherings, I always made sure that I ate before I left so that I wouldn’t have to partake of any food at the party.  I didn’t want to gross people out with my messy feeding.  And, mostly, I was embarrassed.  I hated drawing even more attention to my crippled, crumpled self. Continue reading

A Prayer before Eating

This is the famous 1918 photograph by Eric Enstrom called “Grace”.

 grace by Enstrom framed

It has hung in the dining room of my parents’ house since before I was born. Interestingly, although my mother was raised by a devout family in a very religious village, her family never said “grace” – a prayer said before eating. It’s hard to say whether or not my father’s family did… probably they didn’t, except, I would guess, on holidays and, then, probably only at his aunt or older sister’s promptings. This helps to explain why my parents never said a prayer at mealtime when they were married. Not until my older sister changed things. Continue reading

Giving Thanks

It is right and just to give thanks to God.  Why?  Because all good things come from God.  Life.  Love.  Joy.  Peace.  But, what about the other things…?

In order for us to truly and fully receive these good gifts from God, we human beings are given, along with the first gift of life, the gift of freedom, or freewill.  For it is only when we are free to choose that we are free to love.  Yet, the shadow side of this great light is the freedom to hate, and even the freedom to be apathetic.  And where there is hate or apathy, there is pain, sorrow, and struggle.  When we are experiencing these hardships, sometimes we look to God and ask, Why?  Why should we praise You?  Why should we give You thanks when life can be so terrible?

I don’t think it’s the customary thing to look at a crucifix  on Thanksgiving Day,  but I believe that we should.  Every day.

crucifix-2-flash

The crucifix reminds us that God knows. God did not need to become human like us, God did not need to experience pain, betrayal, rejection, grief, fatigue, frustration, sorrow, death. But, when the Word was made flesh, when Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Divine became incarnate. Jesus, both fully human and fully divine, experienced all that it is to be human. Willingly. Lovingly. Even though, before his crucifixion, he agonized, filled with dread, so overcome that he sweated blood, he ultimately and freely chose Divine Will. He accepted the coming torture, humiliation, and awful pain of dying on a cross. He who is without sin, he who is perfect, underwent terrible violence at the hands of those who either hated him or cared nothing for him. He was stripped and killed by them. And yet…

He forgave. Being not only fully human, but also fully divine, Jesus is also Mercy Incarnate. He shows us, in the living of a human life, the true way to the good things. Enjoyment of the good things of life doesn’t come from having a life where there is no pain or suffering. The good things of life are love and peace and joy. Love and peace and joy are truly and beautifully good because they are not dependent upon the circumstances of life. They are not dependent upon other people’s choices to be careless or to hate.

No matter what others may do to us, no matter what horrible circumstances others may create for us, like war or desperate poverty, and no matter what comes our way through the workings of nature, like disease or physical death, the good things remain solid and true. Love cannot be blocked or destroyed by suffering. Mysteriously, love can be discovered or intensified through suffering. God knows. Christ’s love for his mother and his disciples was undaunted – even his love for all humankind was not weakened by his dying on the cross. In fact, his last words were of forgiveness for those who made him suffer so terribly and of loving consideration for those who were grieving for him. And then he gave his all, in his final human words, to God. “Into Your hands…”.

We are all in God’s hands. Circumstances may try us and others may seek to harm us. But, when we live, not by the measure of temporary and physical things, but by the measure of eternal and spiritual things, the Good things of God, then we can know, even when our lives are most difficult, the ways of peace and joy and love. For “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[1]

So, looking at the crucifix can help us to be thankful.

Maya Angelou once said that, in the midst of your worst experience, when you are down, suffering, and sorrowful, if you can look up from that misery and say, “Thank you”, then you are blessed. You are experiencing grace and are, most certainly, succeeding as a human being.

I don’t know if I can do that in the future things that will befall me. I know that I have done it in the smaller things that have come before this moment. In the midst of my disability and debilitating disease, I am grateful. Of course, I have much for which to be thankful – for my friends and loving family, especially my blessed and amazing parents who give tirelessly and joyfully of themselves to me and others, and for my home where there is safety and plenty. This temporary and physical life of mine is good! And, yet, my physical body is certainly not the best. Breathing can be difficult, just getting comfortable so that I will not have pain is a trial, and, as always, I can’t even scratch my own cheek or wipe my own bottom.

But, I am grateful. I can sit here and actually think about how weak and helpless I am and still say, “Thank you.” I hope and pray that I may always be able to do that. (And I hope and pray that I will not be put to the test.)

This particular Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful that my father did not have a heart attack and that he got through septuple coronary bypass surgery successfully. I can add this to the list of many blessings. And I am mindful of those in the world whose loved ones have died this year, of my own cousin, who at 47, suffered cardiac arrest and now has severe, irreversible cognitive brain damage. My cousin’s husband and sons, with their care and devotion to Barbara, prove that love is scary strong, that love is unconquerable.

Life is hard. Life is terrible. Life is good. This is our faith as Christians, and it is a great mystery, a mystery that can only  be known in love, that can only begin to be glimpsed when we gaze upon a crucifix…

Happy Thanksgiving.

© 2015 Christina Chase

 


 

[1] Romans 8:38-39

Photo Credit: A crucifix in the vestibule of St. Paul’s Basilica in Toronto, ON, Canada. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)