Three words for a simple day

Coffee cup in hand, I sat down at my keyboard this morning, my mind a complete blank. “Lord, what would you like me to say today?” was all that I could summon to my mind.

There’s no deep wisdom in my thoughts this morning. I haven’t had any really deep insights into the meaning of the Mass, work, charity or mowing the lawn. I’m just sitting here, ready to do your will. I am not on fire with the Holy Spirit; nor am I in the grip of the evil one. I’m just here. What’s a Christian to do on days like today, when everything around us just feels so…ordinary?

Last week, my wife put a sticky-note on one of the kitchen cupboard doors. On the note she wrote the word, “Praise.” It’s a reminder to her that she should praise God in everything and all the time. It’s a simple reminder that there is a God, that He is both within us, coaching us and guiding us, and that He is the Almighty, the cosmic creator of everything. He helps me to love at the same time that He gives the sky its unique pale blue color this morning. Praise, indeed.

A good friend and advisor is always encouraging me to be grateful. Particularly when I am in a funk, he tells me to make a “gratitude list,” a list of the gifts that I have been given. The list is ever-changing, but it’s always fairly long. God’s been pretty good to me.

Before sitting down at the keyboard this morning, I offered up my day to God. No specific petitions; no healings or miracles; no insights. In fact, all I asked for today was that He use me to do His will, whatever that may be. It was a short, “Here I am, Lord,” Samuel-type prayer.

Praise, thanksgiving, and surrender. That’s all I have for today. It’s probably enough.

Happy Thanksgiving. Good grief.

I feel a bit like Charlie Brown this morning, and not in a good way. I decided to research the origin of my favorite holiday. I’ve always felt very moved by Thanksgiving: a holiday that calls on us to give thanks to God for our blessings. Thanksgiving to me has managed to maintain that purpose over the years, at least that’s how I looked at it.

But then I started to learn some of the politics of it (or at least the political spin that has been attached to it). Some historians say the European tradition of giving thanks and feasting after the harvest was started in a post-Reformation world by Protestants who wanted an alternative to all the Catholic holidays, holy days and feast days. And a blogger on the Huffington Post web site cited an historian who argued the Pilgrims weren’t celebrating a bountiful harvest nearly as much as the destruction of the native tribes, who they viewed with contempt and fear. George Washington declared the first official day of thanksgiving in a political move to encourage the idea of a single nation and Lincoln did the same thing in 1863. Franklin Roosevelt set the modern date of Thanksgiving in an effort to boost the economy (FDR invented Black Friday? Who knew?!). I feel like Charlie Brown in the TV special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Charlie was in search of the meaning of Christmas, but the only answers he found were crass, selfish commercialism. Rats.

Thank goodness for Linus. Brainy, nerdy, kind Linus who used the story of the Nativity to explain that, beneath the commercialism lay a simple truth: Christmas is the birth of Christ the Lord. I need a Linus to remind me that Thanksgiving is still here too. And that somewhere beyond the political spin moves, historical harrumphing and inter-Christian rivalries, the simple truth still lives. God is here, He has been very good to me, and I am grateful for the gifts that He showers me with every day.

And I am especially grateful for you. It has been only recently that I have learned that the hand of God is the hand of my family, my friends, and everyone else around me. The body of Christ is you, me, and everyone else. When I have needed His grace the most, it has appeared in your hands, your eyes, and your words.

Thank you. And Happy Thanksgiving.

Gratitude

Good morning, Abba. Thank you for everything in my life, from the thin, crisp frosting of snow on our lawn to the awesomeness of my wife and her love for me. My most recent self-help regimen tells me to start every day with gratitude. Well, I can’t see a single thing around me that I’m not grateful for! Even the bad stuff has a place in my life, because I know that if I weren’t challenged, I would become even more of a slug.

Linda and I attended a two part lecture in church a couple of weeks ago. The topic was social justice and the speaker was an incredible teacher from St. Ambrose Academy. One of the many diamonds of information that I took away from her talk was a quote from one of the Saints (Aquinas?) who said that one individual person is worth more to God than His entire work of creation. Amazing.

How can we ever despair when we know the Creator values each of us, as we are, more than diamonds, gold, the Earth, the Sun and all of the cosmos? How can we ever be lonely or unwanted? How can we think we are nothing, useless, dumb, stupid, fat, skinny, ugly, poor, greedy, lazy, or any of the other negative tags that we attach to ourselves? We did not put ourselves here, we did not design our upbringing, environment or education. We were planned, considered, created, and above all, loved by God. Loved by Him as we are, where we are, what we are, and who we are.

Just let the thought soak into you for a while. You have a unique, individual relationship with Him. He wants YOU to exist. He knows your strengths and your flaws. And he loves them.

Now then, what are you grateful for today?

Thank you for this day

God got tired of my regular prayer routine this morning. Every day (okay, most days) starts with me on my knees offering a prayer of gratitude and service. The prayer always starts with, “Thank you for this day,” and then I rattle off a list of whatever goodies happen to be on my mind at that moment. Today, God must have been in a feisty mood.

He can be a little frightening when He intervenes in our life unexpectedly. I got as far as, “Good morning, Heavenly Father. Thank you for this day,” when He stopped me in my tracks.

“What does that mean?” God wanted to know. “Is there something about this day that makes it better than yesterday, or are you just rattling off a mechanical thank you without really meaning it?”

Gulp. What do you do when the Almighty calls you out? Where do you hide? “Umm, I stammered, well, I guess…ah….” He sent me to my chair to think about it.
Why AM I grateful for this day?

My morning prayers are said in front of our living room window, and I have a nice view of mature elms and ashes, gently swaying in the morning breeze. I am grateful for that relaxing view and for the life-giving environment that we live in. God’s natural creation sustains us and it provides our minds with a place to rest and be restored.

When the weather is less than peaceful, I am grateful for the builders and plumbers, electricians and heating contractors who built my home and provided me with a place to be warm and comfortable, even in February. I am amazed and grateful for the thousands of people who interact with one another to create communities, plan and maintain the streets, sewers, water systems and everything else that goes into this “place,” where I live.

I am grateful for my economic and social place in this world. For my job, which pays for my food, shelter and far more. For my Church, my civic organizations, my circles of friends. For all of the people who care about me and would probably do more to help me if I were in need than I ever think about.

I am grateful for the little challenges and problems I will face today. “Sufficient for a day is its own evil,” Jesus told his disciples. Translation: stuff is going to happen today. Problems help us grow, nudge us into better directions, and generally make us stronger.

I am grateful and amazed that God has a purpose for me. He put me here, in this chair, in this house, on this street at this time. He gave me my family, my job, my home, and my flaws and talents. He made me to wake up this morning, and now he is allowing me to choose whether I will serve him or myself today.

And all He asks in return is that I love him and the people around me.

Yes, Abba, I am thankful for this day.