Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thankslisting as a Spiritual Discipline

Spiritual Discipline: A concentrated effort to create space…where obedient listening can take place.

This week we’ll read Psalm 107 in worship, and in preparing the pastoral prayer, I have been praying this Psalm.  My study Bible points out that the opening verses describe God’s people as gathered from the 4 corners of the earth, east, west, south and north; the Psalm then describes four situations of affliction, suggesting that all of us, no matter which corner of the earth we live in, will have a time of suffering.  Yet in every situation, the people cry out to the Lord from their distress. They are answered and they offer thanksgiving.

When I started praying this Psalm, early in the week, I reasoned that if the Psalmist could offer thanksgiving coming out of every situation, this week, I too should be offering thanksgiving.  So I set about on a discipline of giving thanks.  During morning prayer, I have been writing a list of things for which I am thankful.

Early in the week it was easy to list things for which I am thankful: 

  • healthy family, 
  • pleasant home,
  • reliable car, 
  • parents who live nearby, 
  • sister who makes me laugh when I check facebook.

But as the week progressed, adding to the list began to take work.  Once all the “obvious” items were listed I needed to concentrate and get creative.  My list becomes one in which details make for precious moments: 

  • son who lets me hug him when he leaves for school, 
  • other son who doesn’t complain of busy-ness to do but instead lets me jabber on the phone to him, 
  • puppy who looks at me like I’m crazy when I sing a hymn during morning prayer, 
  • husband who tells me he is proud of me, 
  • the words “I’m glad you’re here”, 
  • the friend who stretches out arms for a hug when we meet in the hall, 
  • the email “I’m praying for you”, 
  • the hospital patient who doesn’t let go but keeps holding my hand long after our prayer has ended.

The inner mathematician demands that I review the definition…are all the conditions met?  Spiritual Discipline: A concentrated effort to create space…where obedient listening can take place.

Concentration, check, the list takes more concentration as every day passes.  

Listening, check, both while writing the list and throughout the rest of the day.  I feel more aware of those around me, listening in a new way to them. 

Obedience…there’s a sense of obedience—not simply checking off a literal obedience to Biblical commands to give thanks—but that something more is going on.  In the awareness of others around me, and giving thanks for what makes them unique, I am learning to love them in new ways.  

As I make the list, and pause, struggling to name another moment, there’s a space being created.  Who else, Lord?  Who else do you want me to see in new ways?  Who else do you want me to give thanks for?  

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