Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Stepping Stones to adoration of God, which, in turn, leads to genuine gratitude

In order to adore God we must move, Richard Foster tells us, "across the waters of our narcissism" (Prayer, pg. 88). In order to cross these waters, which often run swift and deep, we must take a first step. As we step, we find stepping stones.

It is a rank truism to state that we must always start where we are. Nonetheless, there is no other possible starting point! So, we start, Foster tells us, "in the nooks and crannies, the frustrations and fears, of ordinary life" (Prayer, pg. 87). False starts can all too easily occur. If we are honest, it does not help when are sad to count our many blessings, or to reflect on God's goodness. It is important not to reject these realities when we are down, but there are times when rehearsing these truths is not helpful and not even possible.

We do not learn adoration on a "grand and cosmic scale" right off the bat. Foster wisely tells us that to begin on such a scale "wears us out and defeats us" from the get-go (Prayer, pg. 87). "We learn about the goodness of God not by [first] contemplating God's goodness but by watching a butterfly" (Prayer, pg. 87). In other words, we start by paying attention to creation. Specifically, to those parts of creation that surround us, that are immediately available to us. We begin by just observing "the birds, the squirrels, and the ducks" without studying or analyzing them (Prayer, pg. 87). We watch and do not evaluate.

I like this image that Foster presents very much: "Go to a brook and splash some water on your burning face. In that instant do not seek to solve all the problems of pollution and the ecosystem: just feel the water. Most of all, do not try to find God in the water or to make yourself be thankful for the water. Simply allow the cool wetness to refresh your skin. Now sit back and and listen to the sound of the brook. Watch the branches overhead swaying back and forth. Note the leaves fluttering in the breeze - notice their shape, their color, their texture. Listen to the symphony of rustling leaves and scampering chipmunks and twittering birds" (Prayer, pg. 88). Do not analyze, just notice, attend to what is happening before your eyes, your ears, your nose, your fingertips.

Attentiveness, then, is the first stepping to adoration, to gratitude.

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