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Monday, August 1, 2016

Evening of Gratitude

I like to think about mornings as times of expectation.  When I jump out of bed in the morning, I look forward to the day.  I try to have sufficient idea of what I will do, that the day will not be a waste.  At my age, wasting a day seems almost sacrilegious.  But maybe that is true for any age.  I see every day that I live to be a gift of God.  I did not create the day.  But I do get to decide how I will live it.  Wasting the day seems like a poor choice.

At the other end of the day comes evening.  I prefer to focus on evening, rather than the night.  Evening is that time when the light of day bleeds into the coming darkness of the night.  Evening is transitional, as the early morning is also transitional.  Even in our technological era when we can make night last as long as we want, nobody confuses day with night.  Evening is the transition from one to the other.  Evening means the light of day is nearly over.  In a figurative sense evening means our day is over.

Evening is a time to look back over the day.  The expectations of the morning are long since in the mirror of the day.  Evening is a time to reflect on what actually happened. Evening is a time to assess how the day went.  Do I feel good about the day?  Or am I left with regrets---regrets for things gone poorly or for not even trying to do good things?  Feeling badly about my day or regretting the day is not a pleasant way to head into the darkness of night.

Sleep and rest are the rejuvenators of busy days that tire us.  But I know sometimes sleep is an avoidance of engaging my days. which come as gifts.  Evenings transition from the busy, engaged activities of the day into the waiting sleep that will restore us physically, emotionally and spiritually.  But I also am very aware of how the value of evenings is often undermined by the technological engagement of modern life.  Televisions work any hour you choose to turn them on and glue your brain to their airwaves.  Social media is always luring us with an almost siren song saying, “Take me, check me to see if anything new or interesting has happened since I last checked five minutes ago!”

Evenings are often destroyed with little awareness that we have been delivered to bedtime and the end of our day.  Without an evening of reflection, there is little or no attention to my day.  I never give any thought to whether my expectations of the morning came to anything.  I am not really cognizant of whether I am happy or disappointed with my day.  I squander any chance to learn from my day and situate myself to get more out of tomorrow.

What’s the alternative?  I suggest we use evening as a time for reflection.  We might literally choose some period when the sun is setting in the western sky and spend a few minutes thinking back over our day.  Or we might designate a few evening minutes for reflection any time before heading to bed.  The key is not when I do it; it is whether I do it.  Remember: no reflection, no learning.

I try to make evening reflection a spiritual discipline.  Even if we can devote five minutes to it, we have succeeded.  I need a little time of being alone and being quiet.  Even if the tv is on, find the mute button.  Think back over the day.  Was there anything significant that happened?  Did you connect with anyone during the day?  Did you make a contribution or, perhaps, an impact?  Did you fail to talk or act when you had the chance?  This is not wasted time.

If I have a goal for my daily life, it would be that I could live meaningfully enough to be grateful for what I have been given and, in turn, for what I have given.  Seeing daily life as a “give and take” is not a bad way to frame it.  Unless you are dead, each new day is a gift.  That you have been given.  And in almost every instance, you take that gift of the day and you live it.

The most basic realization of my evening of reflection is to be grateful for the day that was given and that I took.  So there is reason every evening to be grateful at least for that much.  And I hope for more.  With each new day, I hope to add some kind of value to my own life and to the life of others.  Of course, it is possible to add negative value!  This is a good place to follow the Hippocratic oath: do no harm.

My own spiritual perspective recognizes that God gives us the gift of a day and has hopes---maybe even expectations---that we will do something good, constructive and meaningful with our day.  In a real way our day reflects our life.  Adding value to the day adds value to my life.  There are easy ways to judge this.  Am I am loving?  Have I acted justly?  Am I making peace or making a mess?

To add value is to have a basis for gratitude.  To have a basis for gratitude is to have a good life.  And a good life is what God wants for us.  Don’t miss a chance to reflect and realize this.

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