Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
~Thessalonians 5:13-18 (ESV)
Usually I would be commenting on Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing.” I love The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way, and strive to live in constant prayer. I said “strive” because I usually fall far short of the pilgrim’s standard. It’s hard to mix accounting with constant prayer.
But today I want to reflect on a different section of Thessalonians 5, verse 18 “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
I have recently been blessed by having a grateful heart in the midst of a really difficult time. How many have a gratitude journal, or a habit of counting blessings? It’s hard to be grateful when chaos is swilling around and stress is maxing out unless you are standing on the foundation of a solid gratitude habit.
My gratitude habit blessed my deeply during a recent challenge. On a Saturday In late February my Dad suddenly had a heart attack and ended up in the Cardiac intensive Care Unit. Monday morning I was on a flight to be with him. There was plenty of emotional chaos and stress swirling around with undertones of unspoken and unresolved conflict.
As an introvert (INFP) I don’t do well around conflict, and prefer to retreat into my inner space for prayer and reflection. Our time with Dad was limited, so there was lots of time for prayer & reflection. I spent a lot of time reflecting on things about my Dad that I’m grateful for.
When we were growing up, Dad seemed to be a strict disciplinarian. He was always on us about saving money. From a kid’s limited perspective, I thought he was mean. I daydreamed a lot about running away from home to find loving parents.
I remember that when I turned twelve he got me signed up to deliver papers with the Denver Post. I thought that was really harsh at the time, but it turned out to be a great experience. Looking back on that and many other experiences I see that he valued self-reliance, and wanted us to live up to that ideal.
When Dad was growing up, he was a Boy Scout in Phoenix, Arizona. He eventually became a troop leader. He would tell us about camping in the Superstition Mountains and regale us with tales of how many people died in the search for the Lost Dutchman’s mine. Us three kids became his personal boy scout troop, never mind that one of us was a girl. We went camping and fishing in the Rocky Mountains.
Dad even went to the Army surplus store and got a bargain on a 12 man army tent. When folded up, it weighed a ton and almost filled up the entire trunk of the car. He had us practice setting up the tent in the back yard so we would know what to do in case we had to set it up in a dark and stormy night. That actually did happen on one camping trip.
What I hated the most was “policing the campsite” at the end of every camping trip. We had to go all over picking up the trash. The worst injustice was having to go back and pick up a piece of trash that wasn’t even ours to begin with. He was such a meanie! Boy Scout rules say, “Always leave the place better than when you found it.” That is totally ingrained in me now. (I was brainwashed by a retired Boy Scout Troop Leader.) When I see trash on the ground on my daily walk I have the urge to pick it up, even if it’s not mine!
Dad led us on ghost town tours in the Rockies. We even rode the Narrow Gage Railroad from Durango on my birthday.
I’m really grateful for those many experiences: learning to bait a hook and gut a trout, summers spent reading science fiction in that huge 12 man army tent, and so many others. Through it all, Dad was always trying to teach us a lesson. He was passing his values on to us, self-reliance, a lifetime love of learning, while pouring out his love for us in the process. Those values were engraved in Dad’s DNA.
Maybe we would get tired of his lectures at the dinner table on Greek and Latin roots, but we learned in spite of ourselves. I even have Latin on my license plate!
Maybe I got bored spending hours and hours in the basement workshop learning about capacitors, resistors, and vacuum tubes, but I feel proud that we built our own TV. Forget that it was only black & white with no case around it. It worked! We had a blast as a family watching F-Troop and the Wild, Wild West on that ridiculous naked TV. I learned about electricity, morse code and electromagnetism in spite of myself.
Choose Gratitude. Yes, I am mourning Dad, but also celebrating his pure, enthusiastic, and loving heart. The older I get, the more I am grateful for the love that he invested in me. When he was grumpy after work, or scolded me for a bad grade on my report card, I would swear to myself that I would never treat my kids that way.
DNA. Everything that I treasure in my own character came from my Dad (Well Mom, half of it anyway.) I had a lot of time to reflect during those long hours in the CICU waiting room. Most of it was on gratitude for the many things that I inherited from Dad. None of it was cash, but it was all priceless.
Saint Paul gave us good advice. Give thanks in all circumstances, even in the CICU waiting room.
And don’t forget, “Be at peace among yourselves.” Thessalonians 5:13
(Dad passed away on March 10th, 2014.)