Who remembers playing this game when they were little? More importantly, who thought it would be fun for kids to be mildly shocked if they weren’t dexterous enough to remove the wishbone from the dude’s chest? Weird.
Sometimes I wish my inner world were more like the game of operation. Life can move so fast that I often don’t have time to reflect on why I’m feeling upset, to relish moments of peace or reflect on any other of the number of emotions and interactions that buzz through my life on any given day. Maybe there are butterflies in my stomach but it’s difficult at times to find what proverbial metal tweezers are provoking nervousness and fear.
I spoke this morning at a mom’s group at my church, Madison Moms. It used to be a MOPS group but we seceded from the union and are doing our own theme this year on the topic “shalom in the home” using the book: The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook.
This month on Sidewalk Theologian we are focusing on cultivating thanksgiving in our lives- to be thankful no matter what. Last week I encouraged my mom and the two other people who read this blog to express thanks to people who serve you- UPS people, barristas, etc. I found that this was pretty easy to do because in America, or at least the midwest, people are generally friendly and thankful. It seemed too easy, especially if you are naturally chatty like myself. Trio of blog readers- I ask you; do you need a better challenge for this week? I think yes.
My challenge for you is the same as what I gave to the Madison Moms; take time to reflect on where you have been most and least thankful during the day. This practice in the book is called examen & basically it’s being attentive to the presence of God in daily life. As the sidewalk theologian I totally dig this practice because; it’s easy- you can do it anywhere, in your car, doing dishes, walking and it can just become part of normal life. I like asking these simple yet profound questions because they help me to be thankful and to recognize the places I am thankful, and how I express thanksgiving and the places that I’m a straight-up jerk and need to pray, stop complaining and ask God to help me to be thankful. Lastly, the practice of examen is a little like a mental and spiritual version of the game of operation- picking up instances during our days and reflecting on them to become more aware of how we respond to God’s presence, to ourselves and others. And you never get mildly shocked. At least not with a buzzer and tweezers.
So- in the next week I challenge you, three blog readers to stop once a day and ask yourself:
“where have I been most thankful today? Where was I least thankful? What do these interactions and feelings reveal about the greater themes going on in my life?”
This practice helps those of us who are more optimistic and tend to gloss over the difficult things in life to stop and acknowledge places that have been hard as well as the places in our days where we’ve been thankful. It helps those of us who tend to be more depressed, cynical or melancholy to cease the snarky comments about ourselves and others and cultivate gratitude. You might want to write these things in a journal to discover your patterns of life and thinking and how Jesus might be present in the midst of your days. You might want to type them on your IBM P/S 2 computer like Doogie Howser, M.D. with some catchy synthesizer music playing in the background.
So, however you do it- let me know if you’re down with the challenge for the week & then post what you’re thankful for in response to this blog. that includes you, blog lurkers who have never commented.