I am reading James Bryan Smith's wonderful book, The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love With the God Jesus Knows. I like that each chapter has a 'Soul Training' exercise at the end, along with some questions for reflection for individual or group study. So far Jane and I have decided to go to bed an hour earlier each night, as a result of chapter 1.
Yesterday I read chapter 3: "God is Trustworthy." In this chapter he shared a story (I think originally shared by George Buttrick), about an illustration used to help people see the goodness of God. A lecturer to a group of businessmen displayed a sheet of white paper which had one ink blot on it. He asked them what they saw, and all of them answered, "A blot." Interesting how we do that, isn't it? There was only one blot on the paper, and that's all we usually see. Rather than all the rest which is perfectly fine. Or, as Buttrick said, "there is an ingratitude in human nature by which we notice the black disfigurement and forget the widespread mercy." He says we need to "deliberately call to mind the joys of our journey. Perhaps we should try to write down the blessings of one day."
Smith gives a similar illustration of a child who has one item they desperately want for their birthday. They open gift after gift, disappointed that it's not the one they want. Then he asks, "How often do I focus on something I want God to do for me, and neglect the ten thousand things - often better things - he has already done?"
Yep, I am guilty as charged. The Soul Training exercise for this chapter, then, is to 'count your blessings.' He recommends using a journal along with the book, and for this exercise, to just write down all the things you can praise God for. They can be big things, or little things, or... anything you want.
As an aside, I also read yesterday morning where someone stated that the typical small child smiles 600 times a day, and old men smile 2 1/2 times a day. So this might help with that too. I tried to smile a lot yesterday.
I am using a written journal with the book, but I'll add a few things here that make me smile (things I am praising God for):
- My wife and family, of course
- Goofy cats and dogs
- Funny comments on Facebook and blogs
- Coffee that has cooled to just the right temperature
- A brisk walk to work in a warm coat, hat and scarf
- Good books
- Laying on the couch and looking at my wife
- Pez dispensers (there are 2 sitting on my desk right now)
- A happy child
- A stranger's smile
- Singing old hymns
- Positive people
- Pregnant ladies
- People full of passion
- Small acts of kindness
- The peaceful look of contentment on an older persons face
- Tombstone pizzas
- Long-time blog friends
- Old friends happy to see one another
- Thick, soft socks
- A cat purring on my lap
That seems like a good place to stop. Hopefully I will do as the assignment says and continue adding to the list over time.
Peace out, my friends; and in.