Creatures of habit, aren’t we all? Over our lifespans we learn some, unlearn some, and are ruled by many. Right now I am thinking of two habits that I had in the past, both of which I’ve shed and thus no longer practice. Let me tell you about the first one.
Long ago and far away, I marked every New Year with a list. In the journal I used to keep, my January 1 entry was always a Gratitude List. As much as I could recall, I wrote down all the things that happened in the past year for which I was grateful. My lists would run into the high hundreds, stopping often only because I was too tired to continue. I stopped doing this sometime when my children were very young, most likely because of the busyness of raising a growing family. It was quite a good routine, I’m actually sorry I don’t practice it anymore. And this year seems like a good time to pick it up again.
Which brings me to the second habit I had, which was actually a non-habit. Let me explain: longer ago and farther away, even before I started with my Gratitude Lists, when I was much, much younger, prayer was something I resorted to only when I wanted something or when I was in trouble. At that time I looked at prayer as a tool for getting God to move for me, like an ON button.
We all know how wrong I was. But It took many years of “unanswered” prayers, a slow and many times difficult evolution in the manner of my praying, and countless experiences of God’s presence in my life for me to learn that the Lord had in fact no ON – nor OFF – buttons: He is ALWAYS blessing! And my prayer life, according to its quality, only helps me to be aware of, to be open to and to be grateful for that.
Over the intervening years, I have moved some distance towards the Christian ideal of being at prayer all day. I have a long way to go, but whenever I recognize the fact that at any moment, in any space, my Creator is near, I make an effort to open myself up to receive the grace that He provides.
I have many, many stories of answered prayers. But let me not bore you (nor burden you!) with my newly-revived Gratitude List, 2010 edition. I choose, rather, to use this chance to praise Him who listens to all our prayers, and answers them:
A Psalm, Above All, Of Gratitude
My pleasures are aplenty, Lord,
And indeed, my sorrows are few.
So forgive me, Lord, for many things:
When I fall prey to negative emotions
Like resentment, indifference, laziness;
When I have pressures in my day
And I let go of my center, my focus on You;
When temptation comes along
And I concede defeat to my weaknesses;
When I take cover behind being human
And let myself off too easily, or too harshly.
I bring to You all these shortcomings, Lord.
At the same time, let me shift focus
And look at the bright side:
You, my Lord, are patient: slow to anger
And quick to forgive me in my contrition.
You provide for me every moment I live
With Your bounty,
Far more than I can see,
Far more than I can know,
Far more than I can imagine.
I cannot count Your blessings!
I cannot measure Your goodness!
Continue the work You have begun in me:
Let me contemplate You, remember You
Let me love You, obey You, share You. Amen
Happy New Year, BCBP! May our tribe increase. But more importantly, may the Lord, in us, increase!