Last Sunday I ran one leg of the Manitoba Marathon. Almost-five miles, that’s all it was. Myself and 4 dear friends each took a leg to make up the 26.2 miles. Cal came along to cheer and our friend Lorna was the driver, making sure each person got to their spot on time.
This is my fourth time around for the marathon and this year I noticed a common theme from last year. Like last year, I found myself smiling the whole time and as I ran. When else do you get to run surrounded by cheers and the occasional bagpipe band?
I also noticed something else. Since this marathon is at the end of the school year, I found myself praying, like last year, thanking God for being with me and sustaining me all year.
Gratitude might seem like the most obvious thing in the world. Seen from a distance, it is always clear to me how generously God has provided for my every need. However, when I am neck deep in report cards, or endless lesson planning, or putting out the behavior fires that come up every day, it’s easy for me to get discouraged and forget.
Isn’t it like that for all of us? Don’t we all forget how rich we are when distracting troubles come our way? Troubles such as health, interpersonal problems, insecurities, frustrating situations at home or work, our own monkey mind… the list goes on. If you are like me, a pity party can start up pretty quickly. It’s like we start inhaling our troubles, over-identifying with them, all while forgetting the resources surrounding us.
One study group at Watershed is going through a book on contemplative prayer by Thomas Keating. Keating teaches a way of prayer called “centering prayer”. He has a great image that has helped many people when all these distractions come up.
Imagine a river with boats drifting along by on the surface. Imagine that you are sitting on the shore, watching. The river is your consciousness and the boats are all the random thoughts and problems that seem to spring up unwanted out of nowhere. Keating uses this image and says we are to just watch the boats go by without getting embroiled in them.
“It’s ok to watch the boats go by,
we just do not want to climb aboard and inspect the cargo.”
This has been a helpful image for me in recent weeks. Taking a deep breath (or many deep breaths) is one of the best ways I know to pray wherever I am. Whatever I find myself getting caught up in, if I take a breath and remember it’s just a boat passing by, then I can pray for help not to climb aboard the boats. Then I can remember the great river I am actually part of, the one I’ll notice every year at the marathon relay as I remember all the ways God was with me during the year. (For a good, short article on this practice, check out this link.)
Despite these hectic year end days, I’ve found myself more reflective lately. Like the plentiful monarch eggs which we’ve been watching in my class since May (check out my class blog here to see pictures and videos!), I’ve been reminded of so many evidences of God.
- I’ve seen God in the kind and generous people I work with, who always try to see the best in each other and in the children.
- I’ve seen God at work in my fellow soul mates at Watershed: answered prayers, hope in the place of worry or despair, and people revived by the Great River that is God (who also practice not climbing aboard the boats).
- I’ve seen God at work in the many times I’ve been encouraged and restored to sanity by the above people. (not to mention people I rarely or never see but who connect with me via the Internet – Mel, my top commenter on this blog, Karen Cook, my former student teacher, now a teacher herself and still a dear friend, Bill Howdle who writes another blog, to mention just a few.
- I’ve been encouraged many times by my mom and dad, and especially my dear dad as he writes back to me, always encouraging me and letting me know he’s a fellow pilgrim on this walk of faith. It means more to me than he knows. (Happy Father’s Day Dad)
- I know I’ve said it lots, but this blog keeps me pondering the Great River. I write contemplatively with an eye to the bigger Story in these Internet pages, and it helps me immeasurably each week.
- There are many community events that keep me grounded each week: Wednesday night studies, Sunday mornings, movie night, walks with friends – all events part of our faith community that keep me focused.