Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gratitude 201

I read Ann Voskamp's blog today.  It's about praying to be like Jesus.  It's about wondering if a comfortable Christian can really be like Jesus.  I know I can't.  I am the rich young ruler.  I remember reading this story, as a child, and thinking "Thank goodness I'm not rich.  I'll never be in this position."  Now I find myself in exactly this position.  If Jesus would ask me to give away all my money, I think I could do this.  I find myself thinking of living in a monastery or whatever the equivalent for woman is.  I can imagine having no possessions and sleeping in a cell (like a nun).  I can imagine working all day for no money, but having simple meals to eat.  These imaginings make me laugh.  If you ate dinner with me sometime, or if we went out for drinks, you would have heard me say, out loud, "I could go to prison.  I wouldn't mind three squares a day and an hour for exercise.  I would read and study and rest."  However, I couldn't take the roughness of the people in the Big House.  I'm a weeny.  I would be afraid.  The only thing I've got going for me is the fact that I don't smoke.  I could buy cigarettes and pay for my protection.  Wow, I've digressed.  Ann never goes off on tangents like this. 

But if He asked me to walk (live) side by side with the poor, this would be a different story.  I don't think I could do it.  I've seen poor.  I've gone on mission trips.  I've been to Haiti.  I don't think I could live that life.  I'm spoiled.  I do as much as I can to alleviate myself of thinking about this.

One of the things I do to divert my thoughts from thinking about myself as a selfish person is financially supporting a child through Compassion International.  I support a little girl from Columbia.  Karen.  I hardly ever write to her.  I'm a crummy Compassion supporter.  I need to do better.  When she writes to me it's always the same thing.  Thank you.  Do you have a family?  What do you do in your day?  etc.  I always answer the questions when I write, but I guess I don't write often enough for her to remember the answers to these questions in the months between my letters.  Another thing I do is send money to Care Net Pregnancy Care Center.  I used to do more.  I used to send money AND volunteer.  But, when I started working full-time, the volunteering fell off my list of things I want to do.  I also give money to church, when I attend.  Since church attendance has become less frequent, I no longer consider myself a tither.  I should feel more shame than I do.  I rationalize this behavior by telling myself the church isn't doing what it should with "my" money.  I can make better choices.

Why have I titled this post Gratitude 201.  What makes this an higher level post.  Well, a couple of things.  First of all, starting a gratitude list is WAY easier than continuing a gratitude list.  Writing on it EVERY day.  Thinking of all the blessings and ways I've been blessed every day.  This is harder to do than say.  I've been making an effort.  Effort isn't really enough.  What changes a selfish person into a grateful person is the WORK.  The actual writing of the list, DAILY.  The thinking of the blessings.  The remembering of the good and kind actions I've been the recipient of.  This is the work that changes my thinking.

Secondly, focusing on the blessings I have reminds me of others living without.  Without money, shelter, food, comfort, security, ...  I'm hoping the focus on gratitude will start my path on being compassionate.  This will be a tougher nut for me to crack.  Don't get me wrong, I care about people.  Some people.  But I can give myself some healthy rationalizations about this, too.  Here are a few of mine.  "Welfare is a way of life for some people."  "The money I send to Africa/wherever goes to the war-lords/criminals and funds them to buy more weapons and enslave and persecute more people."  "The bible tells us the poor will be with us always."   I could go on.  These are the rationalizations I want to change about myself.  I'm doing the work.

The bottom line is that I am not poor.  I need to rethink my rationalizations and see if they really hold water.  I need to find the people willing to do the hard work and live and walk alongside the world's poor.  I need to give them support.  Financially and with serious prayer.  Especially since I'm not ready to do that yet.  I need to keep doing the work of becoming a truly grateful person.

If you are reading this on your computer or laptop or smartphone at home, you aren't poor either.  People who throw the "I'm poor" phrase around so freely, especially when they are EASILY within the richest 15% of the world, should stop it.  It is ungrateful.


  1.  preach it sistah...smiles...i go into some pretty dark places, projects and see 'poor' by the american standard quite often, but even that is not truly poor, i have seen that as well...good thoughts...those that do go need those that pray and pay...

  2. My struggle (if you don't mind me sharing it) is with the Good Samaritan situation.  When I see someone on the side of the road, I always feel that I should help (Jesus would, of course).  But, what if they are an ax murderer?  What about the child in the backseat that I'm responsible for?  How do you help when you're afraid?

  3. The Lord told me the other day that I needed to love people the way He loved them. But then he turned my understanding of what it means to love upside down in my natural understanding.  I will try to condense it for the sake of your blog comment and your graciousness in letting me comment! 

    What He showed me is that we need to seek Him for when to give and who to give to. Because honestly no matter how much we do ever it will NEVER BE ENOUGH.  That's a recipe for frustration and I'm pretty sure God doesn't want us to live frustrated.  I understand about not wanting to be selfish, but I have to let God show me if what I am giving and when I am giving it is the right thing to do.

    The widow gave all her living (a very tiny amount) yet Jesus said she gave more than the people giving large sums of money.  I'm not saying don't be charitable and loving and compassionate.  But what I am saying is that we need to let God show us what to do in every situation. He knows the heart of every individual and what they need.  We only need to submit ourselves to His grace. we plant, we water AS THE HOLY SPIRIT LEADS US and He gives the increase. 

     P.S. I have a lot more to say on this but I'll limit my response.  It's long enough already. :)  

    P.S.S.  Jesus had a purpose in coming to earth--dying on the cross.  There were a LOT of needy people living during His time--did He meet all their needs naturally while He was on earth? No, don't think so, but He met their greatest need by going to the cross for them (and me).  Just food for thought. He had a purpose. We have a purpose.

  4. So many thoughts about this! Convoluded ones, too! Ok, if we are talking about "poor" meaning no place to live, no money, that's one kind of poor. But what about a person who feels sad, lonely, depressed? My husband made a comment one time about this and it really stayed with me.
    Like, let's say I have a necklace and there's a poor person and there's a not poor person. I can give my necklace to either one. The poor person could sell it and buy food, but if I give it to the not poor person, this could lift her soul, feeling loved. She doesn't need the money to buy food, but she might need a demonstration of "you do exist! you are loved."
    So, that's why, I try not to judge if some one looks like they "need" something or not, because I really don't know how they are feeling inside. "Rich" people also have a heart and they deserve to receive demonstrations of love, too. Because I think that when we give to the poor (no food or place to live poor) it helps them, not just because of what they can buy with that money, but also because when we give and we make eye contact and smile, we are telling them "you exist, I see you! I love you!" It's not just the money what makes the difference. It's the whole package.

  5. I was just making a note to myself when I sat down to check blogworld...I got a letter today from one of the little girls in the first grade class that I volunteered for last year.  My 'note to self was write Emma & Compassion Child'!  I'm so bad about being consistent with that!  Great get a person thinking post!

  6. Lots of thinking going on. I like your willingness to really examine your heart and try to do the right things. Plus I like it that you can comfortably call yourself a weeny.

  7. I never mind you sharing.  And, here's an answer (if you don't mind ME sharing).  Call 911 on your cell, give the location of the distressed individual, pray.  This is AN answer, not THE answer.  :)

  8.  Hmmm.  I've never thought of poor this way.  Thanks

  9.  You know... I'm going to write my letter today, too.

  10. Weeny is one of the nicer things I call myself.  :)

  11. Sounds as if you are doing plenty, happygirl.   I contribute to the food bank near my house and volunteer there on occasion.  But my favorite charitable organizaton is Atlanta Mission - dedicated to "ending homelessness.  Period."  I do some work over there and men and women from their shelters are always at work, sweeping, mopping, office work, whatever.   The Mission offers a hand up as well as food and shelter.  They are also working on a community garden nearby.  I love those guys.

  12. that's Cheryl from finding the beauty. didn't realize that fb signed me in. sorry about that.


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