Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Living In Gratitude


I tend to think of myself as a grateful person. I know how fragile life is; I have learned that life can turn into nightmare without warning, so I know that I must practice gratitude toward every moment. I know I must take stock of every day and come to understand it as gift and not something to be squandered. 

[As an aside, You can't think your way to this conclusion. You have to be crushed by the human condition, and you have to be running close to the end to get it.] 

For the more biblically inclined, this calling to gratitude is clear in Holy Scripture. For example, St. Paul counsels us that to be thankful in all things is actually GOD's will:
"No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT)

So, imagine my surprise when of late I have been heart-nudged by the LORD toward a more thankful heart. 

You see, if I'm not careful I can practice the fine art of complaint. Without much provocation I can pop off about what I don't like, what I don't think is right, or how my life is being experienced in the present. 

Which reminds me of a story. Several years ago I was on a family vacation. We were at the beach, literally, and about thirteen hours from home. We had been there a day when I received a call from church that I needed to return because a member had died. I will never forget the look of my wife through the rear-view mirror as I drove away.

This caused me to complain to the LORD not only for the thirteen hour trip home, but for days afterward. 

Several seeks later, still complaining, I was making my way to a hospital visit when I stopped at a red-light. There I saw a man in a wheelchair, no legs, wheeling himself through the cross-walk. Suddenly, all my complaining turned to ashes in my mouth, and deep conviction came from the LORD as St. Paul's words came clear to my mind -- "in everything, give thanks. 

I managed to obey Paul's admonition right then, but clearly, over time I have forgotten.

So, here we go: "Almighty, Father, Most Merciful GOD, your hand has touched my heart in so many profound ways. You are so good and I am so blessed. Thank you. Amen."