Gratitude

I’m currently working my way through the Psalms, reading one a day in a quasi-Lectio Divina style. I’m using The Message by Eugene Peterson since the stark contrast to the familiar poetry I grew up hearing stirs my imagination. As I read a psalm, I listen for a short phrase or word that resonates with me and jot it down in my journal. Then I spend a few minutes reflecting on it. 
Today I read Psalm 79 and this phrase jumped out at me – “then we . . . will thank you.” It was that little word “then” that grabbed my attention. I realized how easy it is for gratitude to be contingent on life unfolding just the way we want it to. But the reality is we don’t always get what we desire. Even when we plead with God for a different outcome – like the Psalmist – sometimes we just get the mess and pain. So I wonder if the deeper invitation is to find that place of gratitude even when life smacks us in the face. That’s not easy.
The daily practice of gratitude is really about living in the present moment. Be here now. In his online devotion today, Richard Rohr wrote “the mind can only do two things: replay the past and plan or worry about the future. The mind is always bored in the present. So it must be trained to stop running backward and forward. This is the role of contemplation.” (Meditations@cac.org) It’s a bit like training for a marathon. It takes slow and faithful practice. We each have to find the things that help us live in the present moment and awake to the beauty and gifts in that space.
One practice that helps me is the breath prayer. It is a short prayer that can be said or thought in one breath. The first part of the prayer is said/thought as you breathe in and the last part is said/thought as you exhale. You should find the words that speak to your longings. I say my breath prayer, Spirit, ground me, periodically throughout the day and have discovered that it really does invite me into the present moment.
I also highly recommend Brother David Steindl-Rast’s website gratefulness.org. It is an interactive website that includes a Word for the Day email. I promise it’s an email that you will enjoy getting in your inbox each day!

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