Praise the Lord, my soul…
How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures…
Praise the Lord, my soul.
(Psalm 104:1, 24, 35) (NIV)
This May I began the discipline of walking in the world. What I mean is that I began walking without a destination or goal—walking just to be in the world and notice what was around me. “Wandering in the world” might be an even better description. The idea came in part because the spring air called to me after a long, dreary Chicago winter, and in part because I had grown curious about the fact that Jesus did a lot of walking. Granted, there were no cars, buses, or Uber rides in Jesus’ day, but I became convinced that walking might be important in a way I hadn’t yet discovered. So, I thought I would give it a try and walk—or wander—around the large retention pond about a block from my home every morning. On the first day of my new adventure, I set out with my teenage daughter at 6:50 am. She had signed on to accompany me for a half-hour walk every morning during her summer school break.
Now, it wouldn’t be true to say that I experienced a revelation each morning or that every walk felt magical and deeply spiritual. After all, there were mornings I was tired or stressed or anxious or distracted. But, something very significant happened slowly, over time, as we walked the asphalt path in the early hours of the day. From May to August, we missed only a handful of days—some while she was at camp and two because of rain. We talked about the books we were reading, shows we liked to watch, friends, church, relationships that were hard, and forgiveness. We talked about boys and family and the future. We talked about school, vacations, and home projects. And we had long moments of silence, hearing only our footsteps and the birds singing their morning songs. I found myself near tears at times, so grateful I had this time with my daughter who would soon be off to college, away from home.
In between and around our conversations and our silences, we pointed out the goldfinches that flitted from one yellow flower to the next, blending in so perfectly we could hardly spot them at times; the red-winged blackbirds; the new-born bunnies huddled near the tall grasses; the white crane nestled at the water’s edge; and, of course, the geese flying in formation above us. From time to time, we’d hear the loud splash of a fish flopping out of the water and in again, and we’d laugh wondering why that happened. We would marvel at the intricacy with which God had made the flowers and trees we saw—the greens and purples and yellows. It was just so much to take in when you started to really see what was there. Bumble bees the size of my thumbnail seemed too complex and carefully formed. I found myself stunned and in awe most of the time. Who knew all of this was here? Every day! What wonder! I whispered over and over to God, “Thank you. Thank you.”
As the fall has come and my daughter has returned to school, I have continued my walking and wandering. I have seen the grasses turn to browns and tans and the brilliant purples, pinks, and yellows fade as tiny white flowers appear. My walks now begin while it’s still dark, the sun rising slowly in the cool weather. The trees have begun to release their leaves and they litter the ground with their deep reds and oranges. And what I’ve come to realize is that my walks have been a way to practice thankfulness in the world—a way of really seeing what is here, noticing the beauty and wonder that is present even as things in the world seem so broken and suffering so prevalent. Thankfulness comes with practice—from regularly immersing myself in the world, opening my eyes, and walking in wonder.
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Discuss: What beauty do you see in the world that makes you whisper to God, “Thank you. Thank you”?
What are some ways you currently practice thankfulness in the world? What are some new ways you could practice?
How can you practice thankfulness in the world with your family?
Pray: Father in heaven, thank you for this world you have made. Open my eyes to its beauty, intricacy, and wonder. Continue to grow my heart in thankfulness and allow me to savor every moment I walk in this world. Amen.