Wednesday, 17 December 2008


I saw a series of resolutions for the New Year today...they were of the variety...think positively rather than negatively. Not in itself a bad idea. This week's readings for example invite us to "give thanks in all circumstances" (I Thessalonians 5:18)
I could see as I was talking about this on Sunday last that some of my flock were finding it difficult... how could S give thanks for her son's death age 18, particularly when his birthday was this week..
I came across this schmaltzy little passage from Corrie Ten Boom's :The Hiding Place ....perhaps it is not so schmaltzy as chastening to a world that is cynical and superficial:

Christians sisters Betsie and Corrie were assigned to Barracks 28 of Ravensbruck. They smuggled a Bible in with them, and eventually began to open it up to share with their fellow prisoners, who crowded around them as they read it aloud, clinging to its promises.

Betsie urged Corrie to give thanks in all circumstances–Betsie insisted that Corrie give thanks for the filthy facilities, soiled bedding, claustrophobic spaces stacked with piers for beds stacked three high, and the fleas. Oh yes, the place was teeming with fleas.

She excitedly invited Corrie to join her in thanking God for every single thing in their miserable new barracks.

Corrie was doubtful.

Then Betsie pointed out a few obvious things: being assigned together, the Bible they were able to smuggle in. Corrie agreed and then chimed in with thanks for the fact that there was no inspection when they entered.

Betsie added that they should be thankful that they were packed so close–so that more would hear! She prodded Corrie to pray that, too, so she did.

Then Betsie brought up the fleas. To give thanks for the fleas.

But Corrie’d had enough. There was no way even God could make her grateful for a flea.

Betsy reminded, “Give thanks in all circumstances,” not only in pleasant circumstances. She wanted Corrie to give thanks for everything that was part of the place where God had put them. So she stood there in the filth with her sister, and they gave thanks for the fleas.

They invited all the women crammed into that dormitory to join them for worship. They sang hymns and read Scripture, translating into the various languages represented in the room. They were bold. They preached and prayed and worshiped. In spite of almost constant surveillance everywhere else in the barracks, the dormitory was virtually ignored. They were barely supervised, if at all. They couldn’t understand it, but they certainly took advantage of that rare freedom.

Then, much later, Betsie was working in the dormitory knitting alongside some others who were too weak for the hard outside labor, and they called for a supervisor to settle some confusion about their assignment. The supervisor came, but wouldn’t set foot in the room.

It was the fleas. The supervisor said that the place was crawling with fleas and refused to enter.

(the story is found in The Hiding Place , by Corrie ten Boom, Bantam Books, New York City, NY, 1971)

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