How cool is this?

Yesterday morning, I woke tired and frustrated and worried. I was short of sleep and I was fearful that our community was experiencing a dramatic rise in the suicide rate and I wondered what other social problems could be lurking: domestic violence, animal abuse, rising divorce rates. I am like a lot of other people I know in my tendency to lump together things that are not connected when I get in my worry mode. I wrote a somewhat alarming journal post, showered and went off to work. I started into what turned out to be an other busy and long day without the kind of energy that I usually bring to work.

I was getting to livestream daily prayers for our congregation and I started down the hallway towards an empty classroom as the location for the prayers and I paused as I went by the front doors of the church. It looked like a beautiful, sunny day outside and I could hear the birds through the closed and locked glass doors. Suddenly, I changed my mind and headed outside to the church woodlot to do morning prayers.

In my introduction to the prayers, I found myself felling so grateful for the woodlot. It is a kind of silly thing. The woodlot represents a lot of hard work. People come and put in their hours and leave exhausted. Sometimes when I work a half day, I feel like going home and taking a nap. Sometimes I do it. But yesterday, standing there and smelling the split pine and listening to the birdsongs, I felt a wave of gratitude sweeping over me. As I thought of my colleagues and the work they are doing and the lives they are living, I could think of none of them who have a mission project like our church’s firewood project.

I started my introduction to the prayers by panning the camera around the woodlot. I said out loud on the livestream what I was thinking at the moment, “How cool is this?”

My whole day changed.

The elders and pioneers of our faith, going back thousands of generations, have known that getting in touch with our gratitude changes everything. Gratitude, they teach us, is the appropriate attitude for approaching God. Sometimes, when we read the rules in Leviticus or Numbers or Deuteronomy, they sound a bit dry, like paging through old law books. The passages about bringing first fruits and making offerings to God can sound like rather harsh and random laws. But when you take time to actually practice the disciplines of our faith, you discover important realities of life that lie behind the ancient laws. First, express your gratitude. Before you feed yourself. Before you feed your family. Before you count your resources. First make a gift of gratitude to God. The laws about tithing sound, at first read, like a harsh order to give away your money. But there is more to these ancient truths.

We might understand the commandments about first fruits to be about beginning withe gratitude. First make sure that 10% of your day is about gratitude. It is a powerful concept. While the commandments seem to focus on the “how” of expressing gratitude, being specific about dividing resources and harvests and herds of animals, the “why” is sometimes not as clear. It is simply accepted that making gifts to express gratitude is good for all people.

According to the forecast I looked at, today is supposed to be clear with no rain. A few clouds will be in the skies. It is already 40 degrees and it should make it to 60. Winds should be light throughout the day. And it is Saturday. There is a splitting party at the woodlot. I don’t have to dress up. I can throw on a pair of jeans and a t shirt, grab a sweatshirt and head out the door. I will be with good people who are hard workers. We’ll get some wood cut up and we’ll get some of it split. We’ll make some neat stacks of our split wood and make ourselves tired.

We are the most fortunate people in the world.

Later in the day, I will have to do some work at the computer. I’ll look at Facebook to see the reactions to the things the church is posting. Along the way I’ll read a bunch of posts from people I know. There will be complaints about boredom and stories of how family members are driving each other up the wall. There will be worries about businesses that are closed and jobs that are gone and worries about becoming ill. There will be tales of vulnerabilities and worries and even a few of loss and grief. There will be recipes and videos about DIY projects for those who are at home more than they want to be.

Now matter how you look at the world, I am an incredibly fortunate person. I am not ill. I am able to go out every day. I have meaningful work. I live among good people who are quick to help their neighbors. I am surrounded by incredible natural beauty. I have deer and turkeys who walk through my yard. I know where there is a fox den with three kitts who show their faces when I walk by and whistle. I live in a place where I can go for a walk and not be in the middle of a crowd. And I will be able to play peek-a-boo and read stories to my grandchildren over Skype and see my children’s incredible parenting skills with my own eyes. There is so much for which to be grateful that I sometimes don’t even know where to begin.

So I begin by reminding myself how good I have it and how grateful I am for the many blessings of this life. And when I am tired and a bit discouraged, I remind myself that even my tiredness is a blessing. Some people struggle to go to sleep.

How cool is this?

If the next church I join doesn’t have a firewood project, I may have to start one.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!