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keeping my eyes open

Earlier this fall I began to read the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. The premise of Ann’s book is her quest to find gratitude in the midst of ordinary life experiences. As she pours over scripture, she finds multiple examples of how an expression of gratitude always preceded God’s miracles.

Ann began a list of things that she was grateful for. The list ranged from the mundane to the extraordinary. Most of us would agree that gratitude is easily found when things are going well in our lives, but Ann’s belief is that even in the midst of pain and suffering, we can choose to experience gratitude.

How do we find gratitude in the midst of suffering? The Buddhists believe that suffering is the result of our desires. To consciously desire a reality different from our current experience breeds discontent. Meditation is practiced in an effort to practice the art of being content with where and who we are. Isn’t contentment a form of gratitude?

I have dabbled in meditation and yoga and am now keeping a gratitude journal. As a result, I have noticed an increase in my ability to stay focused in the moment. I see a sunrise on my drive into work and exclaim my gratitude to an empty van. I name the gratitude I feel when all the boys get off to school without bickering. The purr of the cat in an otherwise quiet house, a boy at work at the dining room table, the hum of a dishwasher, these are all things that no longer escape my notice. In choosing to be grateful for these simple things, I feed the part of myself that wonders if there is something more to life than what is right in front of me.

Despite feeling as though the book, 1000 Gifts has  fundamentally changed my outlook;  I ask myself if my eyes would be as open to my blessings if I was experiencing true grief or hardship. I cannot begin to imagine finding gratitude amidst the terror inflicted this past Friday morning on innocent children. Hopefully, the event will be the catalyst for change in the way our country addresses serious issues.

I leave you with a benediction taken from today’s devotion posted on the web address below.  I wish this for those most affected by Friday’s tragedy:

Move quietly now through your day.

Joy, peace and hope remain.

Seek out the company of friends.

Remind yourself that God is near.

And allow small moments of joy to return

for the healing of your heart.

http://www.d365.org/followingthestar/

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what’s a person to do

I was reading about the continued opposition from Catholic employers to the birth control provision in the health care bill. The amount of money that has been spent by our local church leadership in opposition to the health care bill and support of the upcoming marriage amendment has troubled me. As a result,  I have decided to stop giving to the Archdiocese of Minneapolis St. Paul, but instead am sending our monthly contribution directly to Catholic Charities.

Out of curiosity, I checked the health insurance benefits that are available to Davita (my soon to be employer) employees. I was shocked to read that not only is birth control covered, but so are abortion services.  I was floored. Can I work in good conscience for a company that foots the bill for abortion?

I’m convinced that back in the time of Jesus, there were not this many potential moral dilemmas.  It was easy for the Catholics of that time. The ten commandments pretty much covered any issue that would present itself. Today, we as Catholics are asked to weigh in on matters such as birth control, gay marriage, abortion and immigration rights, just to name a few. It is fricken exhausting. I don’t even want to think about where my 401k investments are going. I’m sure if I looked close enough I would find out that I am unwittingly supporting brothels and sweatshops somewhere overseas.

In order to avoid these issues, one would have to go live completely off the grid. As much as I value running water, electricity and booze that I didn’t ferment myself, I admit that life would be so much simpler.

P.S. Today’s planned blog post was going to highlight my latest thrift store finds, but alas my child ran my camera battery down shooting BMX videos. (Without my permission, I would add.) Are there thrift stores off the grid?