Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Contemplating Gratitude

Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life
by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

This is a simple, easy to read book that will put you right in the mood for thanksgiving - and not just the fourth Thursday of November, but all the time. Sleeping with Bread is a look at an old spiritual practice known as the examen. The examen is a discipline wherein people share with each other in an intentional way the things for which they are most thankful, as well as the things for which they are NOT thankful. The idea of the examen is to help us keep track of the parts of life that are enriching and renewing and strengthening, and also the parts that are draining and wearying. If we can identify what it is that truly gives us life (and what does not), ideally we can focus more on those parts and not allow the draining parts to take over our day. The examen can help us set priorities and make choices.

Sleeping with Bread is yet another one of the books that I read in preparation for my Israel trip, and I practiced it on the trip by writing my gratitudes (and sometimes my ingratitudes) into my journal. I have continued to practice it in writing since my return. At some point I would like to practice it orally with my family, or perhaps some other small group. Journaling is a good spiritual discipline, but something tells me that the examen works best when articulated out loud. Our family (without knowing it) has often done an informal version of the examen at the dinner table, when we all check in and share highs and lows from our day. As our children get older, though, I would like for them to get into the habit of daily spiritual practice. I did not have much of a contemplative life growing up, something that is not really anyone's fault (certainly not my family or church), I just did not know how rich the interior life could be. I would like to model a life of prayer and reverence and gratitude for my kids, while at the same time leaving them room to develop their own ways of relating to God. Probably a dilemma faced by countless parents!

Sleeping with Bread is a simple but profound discussion of a simple but profound practice. I can see it being used in small group ministries in congregations, or as a family devotional practice. Its focus on thankfulness and expressing gratitude make it a worthwhile book to read to prepare for the secular holiday of Thanksgiving or the upcoming church season of Advent.

Happy Thanksgiving, reading friends! I am thankful for each and every one of you.

Reverent Reader


At 11/26/09, 6:46 PM , Blogger LeAnn said...

I LOVE this book! Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

At 12/1/09, 7:58 AM , Blogger Ruth said...

thanks, I just added this to my books for Christmas gifts


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