The Doorway Into Thanks

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” James 1:17

Yesterday I started reading Mary Oliver’s collection of poems called Thirst and came across a number of jewels.  One of my favorites thus far is called “Praying.”  Here she writes: “It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few small stones; just pay attention, then patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t a contest but the doorway into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak.”

This poem resonates with me because quite often it is the beauty and majesty of Creation that becomes for me “the doorway into thanks.”  When I see beautiful flowers I frequently find myself mouthing the words “thank you.”  When I have the opportunity to watch wildlife move about I often do the same.  When confronted by an exquisite landscape I have been known to break out in song singing the Doxology.  There is just something about the beauty of nature that leads me to prayer and thanksgiving.

In one of the classes I teach at church we were discussing yesterday how “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”   What one person views as beautiful another may not.  When I read Mary Oliver’s poems I get the impression she often finds beauty where many of us don’t.  In the poem noted above she mentions “weeds in a vacant lot” and “just a few stones” as being things that might lead one to prayer and thanksgiving.  Of course she also reminds us that to find beauty in such places we will have to “just pay attention.”   Paying attention is not a strong point for many of us.  We’re too busy or too preoccupied with other things to pay attention.

The failure to pay attention is detrimental to our health—both physically and spiritually.  If we don’t pay attention where we’re walking we could stumble and fall.  If we don’t pay attention to the world around us we might fail to encounter the God who often makes Himself known through His Creation.  It is very important that each of us strive to pay attention.

Paying attention will also help us pray better.  As we notice more of God’s blessings in the world around us we will find ourselves offering Him thanks more often.  We will increasingly find ourselves turning to the Source of all life, the Giver of all good gifts, more frequently.  This, of course, is why God made all that He made in the first place–to reveal His glory and to draw us closer to Himself.  He desires communion with us and has created a world that is intended to lead us to that sweet communion where we can offer Him our love and gratitude and put ourselves in a position where we might experience “a silence in which another voice [God’s voice] may speak.” 

Pay attention.


(I took the top image of ferns and violets this past Saturday at the Falls of the Stony in Viriginia.  I took the bottom picture at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in western Kentucky a few years ago.)