Tag Archives: gratitude

Humility and Gratitude

An ex-student has been so gracious as to keep me in the loop about her successes. She’s a particularly bright and hardworking girl. And I never thought what small messages like that could do for me — I felt so proud of her.

What more would our Heavenly Father in heaven feel if we thanked Him and kept Him in the loop about our successes in life?

I thought, what exactly about this ex-student won my heart? She was humble; never conceited. Even when she was so smart, she listened to whatever I had to teach — she knew she could always learn something.

As the saying goes, students often teach the teachers more so than the other way round!

Prayers today for everyone — that we may always be humble in all we say and do.

___

Originally posted at Catholic Rambles.
Image: PD-US

Learning Gratitude When Life is Tough

Are you in a situation where you are discontent with circumstances? Have you ever wished that things could just turn around? We could waste our lives wishing that situations were different. We must learn to be content where we are during the times when life is less than desirable. The Lord uses every circumstance of our life to teach and mold us. However, when we feel stuck in our circumstances, we can’t let negativity take root. There is one important step we can take to help us find peace in our circumstances: praise and gratitude.

 

It might be difficult to praise if you’re unhappy in your current situation. Try to use a Psalm for prayer, or put on some good praise music. Worship God for Who He is. When you start to praise God, things to be grateful for likely will come to mind. You’ll be amazed as you remember the blessings and His faithfulness in the past. Once you get started, you will begin to focus on positives in your life. Your perspective will shift. Praise won’t change the circumstances, but it will show you Who is in control and the positives that are present in your life.unsplash.com

Each of us has been given so many good gifts, if only we take the time to recognize them. The circumstances that we loath today may one day turn to our joy. Consider the person who doesn’t get the job they really wanted—and later finds out how corrupt the company was and that lay-offs were imminent. We don’t know what our Father is doing. We must praise Him regardless, and trust. Romans 9:20 tells us:  But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” The circumstances of today are nothing compared to what God is molding for the days ahead.

Praise can never steer you wrong. It will strengthen your relationship with your Creator and your awe. It will also bring you a more positive mindset and a focus of the positives in your life. Praise leads us out of the valley of bitterness. Praise leads to joy, gratitude, and the loving arms of our Heavenly Father!

 

 

Depression, Despair, and Hope

Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life.

The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world. His act is worse (symbolically considered) than any rape or dynamite outrage. For it destroys all buildings: it insults all women. The thief is satisfied with diamonds; but the suicide is not: that is his crime. He cannot be bribed, even by the blazing stones of the Celestial City. The thief compliments the things he steals, if not the owner of them. But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront. Of course there may be pathetic emotional excuses for the act. There often are for rape, and there almost always are for dynamite. But if it comes to clear ideas and the intelligent meaning of things, then there is much more rational and philosophic truth in the burial at the cross-roads and the stake driven through the body, than in Mr. Archer’s suicidal automatic machines. There is a meaning in burying the suicide apart. The man’s crime is different from other crimes — for it makes even crimes impossible.

–GK Chesteron, Orthodoxy

These may seem harsh words to quote in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide. They seem, I am sure, harsh in the wake of any man’s suicide, whether of an actor loved the nation over or of an unknown family man leaving behind only a wife and some children. They also represent, to some extent, the orthodox opinion of not only the Church since her founding, but of western man, from the Stoics like Seneca to the Greeks’ Socrates.

They also are the sort of thing which sound inflammatory to the ears of those who mourn. My intent in quoting Mr. Chesterton is not to pour gasoline on the metaphorical flames in the wake of Mr. Williams’ unfortunate demise. That suicide is a damnable sin does not ensure that all who commit it will be damned, nor is the darkest depression equal to that unforgivable sin which is despair. The two are easily confused, and the former may be a symptom of the latter.

Yet there is a crucial difference between these two. Depression may eat at the mind and at the soul, but it is not in itself a sin. Depression may tempt to despair, but it is not despair. A depressed man may at times see his situation as hopeless, but he has not necessarily renounced hope.

A suicidal man may have lost his will to live, may mistake life for suffering—and may see in death a hope for new life []. He may be mistaken in his methods, and he may be said to be wrong for his final act. He may have misplaced his hope, a statement which is in a sense true of any sin.

Hope—this is what every man needs, whether he is suffering at this moment or not. Hope is that virtue which leads from faith to love, and which bridges from here to hereafter. Writing about hope, the philosopher Josef Pieper notes that “Man is true to himself only when he is stretching forth–in hope — toward a fulfillment that cannot be reached in [this life].”

We all suffer to some extent in this life; we all suffer uniquely and individually—and yet in a sense we all suffer together. Do we act in hope in our suffering, and thus find joy even in times of sorrow, or do we wallow in self-pity and sink through misery and to despair? Do we notice the suffering of others, or remain focused only upon our own? Suffering creates responsibility, and we may learn to bear our own suffering by helping others to bear theirs—that is, by showing mercy.

Mercy springs from sorrow at another’s suffering, and our practice of it leads to our being granted it in the end. The simplest act of mercy, and the one which is perhaps most obviously rooted in hope, is to pray for the living and for the dead.

We might begin by asking God’s mercy for the living and the dead, and we might end with thanksgiving for the mercy He has shown thus far, not least of which is the greatest mercy of all, which comes from Christ’s suffering and which leads to our salvation.

Gratitude is the ultimate antidote to depression, and if gratitude persists in the face of depression it may yet allow joy to comingle with tears. That is, alas, the best we might look forward too in this vale of tears, but hope looks forward to that which is to come in the next life.

Thus, we must pray not only for others, but again for ourselves as well, not only for the dead but also for the living. Here our prayer might be that of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman:

“May [God] support us all the day long, til the shades lengthen, and evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done! Then in his mercy may he give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at last” (Sermons Bearing on Subjects of the Day).

—Footnotes—

[] In choosing to take his own life, the man who commits suicide commits a sin, materially. But formally? Formally, he may be forgiven. God is merciful, especially to those whom seek mercy.

A New Grateful You

By now, if you are like me, you have already lost track of your New Years resolution. Learn Spanish? Who has time for that. But the new year brings a fresh desire to improve ourselves. There is something magical about the idea of a clean slate, and a new start. It brings motivation to be a better person.W

I was reflecting on this as I took note of how many days had gone by since the first of 2014. Am I going to let this year slip by me like every year before? No, but I do think I will simplify a bit. You see, my husband and I just returned from a long trip to Africa. How grateful we were to return to the United States, and it all centered on things we take for granted in our day to day lives. I don’t want to lose that level of gratitude now that we have theses things again, so I am going to work on being grateful in 2014. Here is a list of items we were often without while in Africa, that seemed so amazing once we returned.

1. Toilet paper: No, I am serious! When is the last time you thanked The Lord for toilet paper? I doubt most of us even think about toilet paper unless you are the mom of 10 kids. But how miserable we find ourselves if we are without it. The next time you use the stuff, say a little prayer – “thank you Jesus for TP”.

2. Warm water/showers: Ok, how often do we take a shower in warm, clean, water and say “thank you”! “Thank you Jesus for warm showers and most of all that my neighbors have them too!” Really you have no idea how wonderful it is that your neighbors take frequent showers until they don’t.

3. Clean water: We all know that water is essential for all life-plant, animal and human life, but do we ever stop to ponder that? To think about what life would be like if we had to struggle to find clean drinking water? And yet it is the story of life in many parts of the world…

4: Ease of travel: The next time you slip into your well-worn minivan for that family road trip, say “thank you” that you don’t have to travel in it with 20 other strangers packed on top of you – that the road isn’t covered with potholes at times as deep as the car is tall – that the other drivers generally stay in their lanes.

A typical view of the traffic in Lagos
A typical view of the traffic in Lagos, Nigeria

 

Marc Barnes had a wonderful post about gratitude back in December. In it he sums up what is hard about gratitude “When we really give thanks, we practice detachment from the very thing we have attained, and this hard. We recognize that it is of another, given unto us, not ours except by the will of a gift-giver. We recognize that we don’t really own what we own.”

So this year instead of fretting about what we aren’t doing. Let’s be grateful for what we have. To recognize that everything we have is a gift, even down to a glass of cold water.

 

Lessons in the Chinook

Man’s curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint–“

Today was a jump day. I had to jump out of a Chinook. This is one of the occupational hazards of my day job, that periodically they require me to parachute from an aircraft while in flight. It is one of my least favorite parts of the job. I hate heights. I’m also bigger than the average guy so I fall faster and I always hit hard. Jump days also suck up a lot of time.

Today for instance, we started at 0800, with rigging our rucksacks. Then the prejump brief, a quick break to get measured for some new gear, and before you know it, it’s eleven and we are rushing to the hangar to hurry up and get our chutes on so we can make our hit time. Hurry up and rig, then, Oh, wait, someone forgot to do some paperwork so everyone sit down for an hour in harness and ruck. Then hurry up again to get out to the bird that’s spinning up on the tarmac. We take off and start heading to the drop zone, but wait! The pilot and crew have some trainees on board so they are going to do some certification tasks. So we land and sit for thirty minutes. Then we take off and fly nap of the earth, zooming along a river bed, up over the banks and the treeline, down into the clear, banking, turning, diving and climbing like a rollercoaster. Then finally we level off and begin the pass over the drop zone. Everyone goes into the familiar routine, “Standup, hookup, check static line, check equipment, sound off for equipment check.” We got all the way to “Standby!” before they called the winds at 15 knots. So we circled and checked again. Still 15 knots. So we circled again. Still 15 knots! So we all sat down while we circled once more, or maybe twice more. Then “Standup, hookup, etc. Again.”

This time we jumped. I came screaming down fast as a load of bricks again, but landed in a nice, soft muddy patch so it didn’t hurt too much. The winds were high enough that my chute didn’t deflate and actually dragged me for a few inches before I popped both of my releases.

Then we jumped back on the bird, they buttoned up the ramp, and we took the scenic roller coaster route back. I had missed lunch because we were sitting in harness all day, so my stomach was already empty and queasy. With the ramp shut it got hot and stuffy, and the stale air smelled like diesel fumes and hot metal. I could feel my stomach bouncing around and my cheeks going pale. The other guys said I looked “even whiter than usual”. The whole flight back I was focusing on not throwing up. It’s all about breathing, and trying to relax.

It was on the return flight, I think, that the quote at the top of this post came into my head. It is from T.S.Eliot’s “The Four Quartets”. (The Dry Salvages, lines 199-203. No, I didn’t know that from memory. I looked it up when I got home.)

I admit that I was pretty frustrated today. I couldn’t help but think about all the other places I wished I was, the other things I wanted to be doing, the other people I would rather be spending time with. The frustration continued on the way home, with every traffic light, speed limit and even the other drivers adding to that sense of loss. I wanted to get home so I could begin doing other things that I actually care about. But T. S. Eliot’s line kept returning to my mind. “The point of intersection of the timeless/ with time, is an occupation for the saint.”

My mind was in New York, in South Carolina, In Virginia, in Panera Bread or Pho’ Tai in Tacoma. What was on my mind was the past (the fun I had last night) and the future (upcoming weekends, get-togethers, leave, even the fact that I’m getting out of the army in a couple of years.) I was not in the present, which is the only point of intersection of the timeless with time. So I was not living as a saint would live.

Over the course of the day this has been my ongoing battle, to be present in this time, because this time alone is real. God is found only in the present, never in the past or the future. Leave time in September, as much as I look forward to it, is not what I have been given. It does not exist. I have been given this moment, with the smells, the heat, the headache, the noise, the nausea. The thick, numb feeling of my whole body from hours of bombardment with rotor noise is the gift I have been given. This is my calling, this moment, right here and now. The infinite presence of God is an intolerable notion sometimes, because it means there is no mistake. If I have been following Him, then here is where He has put me. And He did it on purpose. Dwelling endlessly on phantasms of where I wish I was is a sheer waste of precious time, time given me to become a saint. That time spent in discontented grumbling is time horribly unredeemed, unredeemed because I refuse to surrender it for redemption. Time is the stuff of which my eternity will be formed. Let me think twice before I spend my time grumbling.

Here and now and nowhere else is sanctity to be found. Here there are rosaries to be said, praises to be offered, petitions to be made, and redemption to be shared in. I have been given these inconveniences as a share (infinitesimal, but all I can handle) in the suffering that Jesus undergoes for the redemption of my family and my friends. As my mother used to say, “Offer it up!” Offering it up is nothing more than allowing Jesus to make you a partner in His redemptive suffering, a little co-redeemer if I may use the phrase. But to do that I must be present.

So while on the outside the story of my day went much like the paragraph above, a series of routine delays and inconveniences, interiorly my day was pretty much a volley of my mind, bouncing back and forth between irritation and resentment, and peace and gratitude. Going all in an instant from impatient muttering to prayers of thanksgiving, maledictions upon my fellow-man grudgingly reforged into prayers for my loved ones. A long, constant effort to drag my mind back from where it drifts to the call of God in this moment.

An occupation for the saint–
But no occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime’s death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us there is only the unattended
Moment…”