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Read, pray, walk, muse and thank God for loving you

      The weather cooled in mid-July, and I worked out on the patio one morning, not upstairs. The patio gets the morning shade, and so I sat there with my books and cup of coffee. A cardinal sang in a nearby oak tree, and robins flitted in and out of a 20-foot sumac tree, its leaves waving in the wind. The wind was not strong, but soothing.

      Earlier that morning during the LectioI chewed on verse 21 of Psalm 106 (107): “Let them thank the Lord for his love.”

      How often do we do that? We tell our spouses all the time that we love them, but do we ever thank our spouse for loving us? I don’t recall doing so.

      The same goes for God, I suppose. We thank God for the mercy he has shown us in his Son, Jesus the Christ; we beg God to forgive us; we ask God to protect us; we beseech God his blessing; we petition God to bless so-and-so; but do we thank God for loving us? I don’t think I have.

      Out there on my patio that mid-July morning, thanking God for loving me was easy to do. I saw evidence of God all around me in nature. A yellow finch darted by and alighted atop the crook of the metal holder from which extends a hanging basket. The shock of the bird’s yellow and the black of the metal hook, all against the green of the berm, painted a lovely tableau.

      The freshly mowed grass sparked a riot of sweet aroma. Dew was cool to the touch as I dragged my fingers through the grass. Bumble bees buzzed about. Mr. Rabbit hid in the tall grass checking me out. A hummingbird zipped this way and that. Woody pecked repeatedly against a tree trunk. Only the horn of a distant Metra train broke the all-natural still-life.

      As for the books I brought out that morning, I didn’t rush through them. I read a page or two, then stopped to walk around the yard and think about what I had just read. I didn’t stick with just one book, either. I read some pages from Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast,” only to open up Raymond Studzinski’s “Reading to Live: The Evolving Practice of Lectio Divina.” 

      Following another respite, I dove into Norbert Blei’s “Winter Book.” All reading, of course, done with yellow marker in hand and a pencil within easy reach. The highlight and the gloss are essential to my reading.

      And that was the process: read, stroll, ponder and resume reading. I interrupted that process now and then by throwing a rosary or prayer rope into the mix. A Bible was in there, too; Satan making life a trial for poor old Job.

      The stroll was just that: leisurely and calming. I’m a firm believer in the stroll. In the warmer months I pray the Liturgy of the Hours strolling back and forth in my backyard. The stroll is conducive to meditation; it allows the mind to freely cast about.

      Sometimes, especially in fall, I like to stroll around the grounds of St. Benedict Abbey, just across the state line in Benet Lake, Wisc. I like to bury my hands in the pocket of my sweatshirt as I stroll the monastery grounds, kicking little piles of fallen maple leaves, crusty and brown, into the air. And when I halt, I listen: “A study in stillness,” as Blei notes in the aforementioned “Winter Book.”

      An underestimated writer was Norbert Blei. Born in Chicago, he escaped to Door County, Wisc. in 1969 where he wrote some books and essays. A chapter entitled “Christmas Eve in Door” from “Winter Book”describes him driving throughout the little towns on the Door peninsula on Christmas Eve night:

      “And just up the hill, on a Christmas Eve, on a winter night of no ice cream at Wilson’s, are the stained-glass windows of the Moravian Church, a scene reminiscent again of an Early American Christmas, where the white-bright church steeples of Ephraim hover over a traditional Christmas Eve, the stained glass aglow, while a steady stream of worshippers, in cars, moves up the hill for the evening’s service. Soon carols will calm the mind and the churning waters of the harbor on this holy night.”

      But back to my patio in mid-July.   

      It all adds up to one single experience. Read a little, pray a little, walk a little, muse a little. All those littles add up to one big thank you, God, for loving me.


     Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, I'll. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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