If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is thank you, that would suffice.—Meister Eckhart
Before my eyes were trained to appreciate the unique beauty of the Florida skies and topography, all I saw was the lack of mountains (which I love) and the humidity, which I find oppressive. The true beauty of Florida was there all along, but I didn’t appreciate it. Learning to see differently has changed how I experience Florida. I am now beginning to appreciate Florida for what it has to offer. The skyscapes are spectacular and always changing. The humidity fills our skies with clouds of many sizes and shapes. There is a beautiful interplay of colors, depending on the time of day, purples, pinks, yellows. I am discovering that the flat topography of Florida has a beauty of its own. Florida is composed of a million sparkling lakes that catch the light of the sun and cool the air near them. Learning to see differently by noticing what is good and beautiful is resulting in a byproduct--gratitude. Appreciation has to do with both recognition of what is good and with enhancing the value of things.
David Cooperrider came up with an innovative way of bringing change to an organization called Appreciative Inquiry. It is based on a new way of seeing. Rather than looking for the problems in an organization, it calls for seeing the good. My art teacher says that in order to learn to paint we have to learn to see. She says that when we were in kindergarten we drew trees like a lollipop, a circle and a stick. But to paint a more realistic looking tree, we have to learn to see differently. This new way of seeing is a principal that Jesus teaches for spiritual transformation. He said, if the eye is healthy, the whole body is full of light. In John 9, he speaks of a spiritual blindness that is more devastating than a physical blindness. Only after reviewing the events of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, did the disciples recognize how near the kingdom and its transforming power really were.
John Ortberg in his book Soul Keeping points out that gratitude is a byproduct of a way of seeing. The Hebrew term for gratitude actually means to recognize the good. So I took up his challenge to recognize the goodness of God at work all around and then express my gratitude. This required being intentional about noticing the good, so I had to move away from the natural tendency of seeing the problems in order to fix them. I like to call this my “God spotting practice.” Praying my reasons to be grateful awakens me to God’s love and favor which has the power to transform me. So how I see what I see is important because it shapes my soul.
I invite you to take 5 minutes of silent reflection. Review your day, a week, or an event looking for reasons to be grateful. It could be very simple things: good food, nice weather, clean air. Or it could be someone who has impacted your life such as a friend, a mentor, or an encourager. You may want to let this scripture guide your time: “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow” (James 1:17 NLT). Ask the Father of lights to give you new eyes to see him. End your time with a prayer of gratitude.
Carmen Fleming is an Odyssey in Christ spiritual director and along with her participation on the retreat and seminar staff, she serves on the OIC Board as secretary.