As I write this, I am stuck at the airport. My morning started with racing through the house, running late, making sure I had everything I needed for a continuing education trip, and trying to get my son buckled into his car seat before the heavy rain started. Just as we pulled into the parking lot, the bottom dropped out of the sky and we got completely soaked running inside. There was a long drive to Love Field in driving rain and as I exited onto Mockingbird, I got the text that my flight had been cancelled. It was “one of those days.”
Yet, I had a different attitude today than I might have on another day. And I wonder if, just maybe, it had something to do with how I started my day.
Over the past few years, I have found myself in a horrible habit of grabbing my phone off my bedside table the minute I wake up. I quickly check my newsfeeds, social media, and the weather. For a while, I told myself I wouldn’t do that until I read a Psalm (on the Bible on my phone, of course) and that felt a little better. . . until I somehow got out of that practice again.
I’ve read two different books recently related to all of this. The first was How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price, which talks about the negative impacts our smartphones are having on our ability to pay attention and our psyche. (Don’t worry, I’m not telling you to give up your phone!). It has a process for creating healthier boundaries with our phones (which I haven’t followed completely, but it has made me much more aware, which, I think is the main point!).
The other book is Grateful by Diana Butler Bass, which several of us on staff have read in preparation of our stewardship focus this month and the class we are facilitating in the Fellowship Hall at 9:45 (it’s not too late to come!). In the book, she outlines the positive impact gratitude has on lives when we recognize that all good gifts are from God and our response is simply to pass them on.
So, in response, I put the following poem of gratitude on my phone and it is now the first thing I read in the morning:
Gracious God, in the busy-ness of my day, I sometimes forget to stop to thank you for all that is good in my life.
My blessings are many and my heart is filled with gratefulness for the gift of living, for the ability to love and be loved, for the opportunity to see the everyday wonders of creation, for sleep and water, for a mind that thinks and a body that feels.
I thank you, too, in the midst of those things in my life that are less than I would hope them to be. Things that seem challenging, unfair, or difficult. When my heart feels stretched and empty, and pools of tears form in my weary eyes, still I rejoice that you are as near to me as my next breath and that in the midst of turbulence, I am growing and learning.
In the silence of my soul, I thank you most of all for your unconditional and eternal love. Amen.
And I’ve seen a difference. If nothing else, today’s experiences are one testament to the difference this is making in my life. What, on any other day would have ruined the whole day, I had a different attitude. I noticed people and connected with people differently than I would have if I had acted frustrated and angry. I noticed the patience and constant helpfulness of the airport staff. I looked around at a very full airport, full of flight delays and cancellations and, while people didn’t look happy to be standing in long lines, I noticed the smiles in the midst of the frustration. The helpfulness of strangers. Our ability to laugh at a situation we could not control. With a last minute gate change, I was able to appreciate getting in some more steps before getting on a plane, and enjoy an ice cream cone during my walk.
In a world where we are bombarded by fear, anger, and often rage, today was significant. By starting my day differently, I became aware of the gifts of goodness, abundance, and joy around me and, hopefully, in turn, was able to pass some of those gifts along.
I know there will be days when I do not get it right, but that is what spiritual practice is about. I do believe that living gratitude is just that – spiritual practice. How will you practice living gratitude today? Because I do believe that one day leads to two, which leads to a week, which leads to months, which leads to life and world change.