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“All you need is love,” sang the Beatles who coined this 60s slogan.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant… wrote Paul whose 1st century definition in 1 Corinthians 13 rings during many wedding ceremonies, including mine.

Faith, hope and love abide, according to Paul, but in practice are very hard to do. A case in point is a story about comedian Richard Pryor, as told by Robin Williams and retold by James Parker in The Atlantic’s November 2014 article “Death and Mrs. Doubtfire.” (Note: I changed one word for this post.)

“Pryor was performing, doing a bit about God coming down to Earth to look for his son: ‘Where’s my boy?’ Humanity is obliged to tell God that it has, in fact, killed his son. ‘I’m gonna destroy you!,’ God says. Then he reconsiders. ‘All right,’ he says, ‘that’s it. I’m leaving. I’m not coming back. I’m gonna leave you love. And if you [mess] that up, you’re on your own.’ After which, in Williams’s telling, the comedian walked offstage, to no laughs at all.”

God did not seek to destroy humanity, nor did He leave. Instead, He gave us unearned love and forgiveness. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son… (John 3:16)

It’s not my purpose to debate Pryor’s theology but to ask: Why is it so hard to love ourselves? And, given the vitriol that spewed forth in social media after Williams’ suicide, why is it so hard to love others?

In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp offered possible answers. During a conversation with her adolescent son, who had been bickering with his younger brother, Voskamp said, “I get how hard it is to live with the people and find the joy.”

It’s also hard to express thanks when one feels fear and anger, she wrote, and vice versa. “Feel thanks and it’s absolutely impossible to feel angry. We can only experience one emotion at a time. And we get to choose…”

We are free to choose love and gratitude but must do so with intention. “The practice of giving thanks,” according to Voskamp, “is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don’t have to change what we see. Only the way we see.”

Fall2014RockfishValleyWhat and how do I choose to see today?

Sunshine paints gold across the Rockfish Valley; gentle breezes send leaves parachuting to earth.

Thank you, God, for beauty.

Laundry, dishes, ladybugs, dogs and the yard wait for me to tend them.

Thank you, God, for health and strength to take care of others and myself.

Books, magazines and writing projects beckon.

Thank you, God, for my mission and the skills to accomplish it.

“Love is all you need.” The greatest of all is love. Gratitude names the ways God loves us.

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