Photo credit:  Pinterest

Photo credit: Pinterest

I want you to stop what you’re doing. I want you to spend a few moments thinking about the five to ten people you love the most. Visualize your love and really open up your heart and feel your love for them. Imagine how sometimes your love for them is so great it hurts. How sometimes it brings you to tears because you’re afraid they don’t fully understand how deeply you love them. How sometimes it drives you crazy wishing you could show them your love in ways they can better understand.

I’m no social scientist but I’d say that 99 percent of us experience very similar feelings of intense love for at least a few people in our lives.

Now, turn your hat around. Take several moments and make a mental list of the people who you believe love you: spouse, children, parents, sibling, best friend – whoever. If you believe that we are, indeed, similar in the way we feel love for those closest to us, then imagine those people feeling the same way about you as you do for them. Don’t venture into thinking about how well they show their feelings of love, just that they have them. Regardless of how they demonstrate their love for you, can you empathize with them? You know how they feel because you feel that way yourself, don’t you?

Next, mentally select one or two of those people who you say loves you the most. Think back over the last week or so and remember a kindness that person did for you. Maybe your husband cooked you dinner because you’d had a rough day. Maybe your wife brought you a cold iced tea or beer while you were working up a sweat doing yard work. Maybe your son or daughter colored you a picture because of the way you inspire them.

Was the instance that came to mind one for which you offered sincere gratitude? Or, was it one where, perhaps, you failed to express adequate appreciation? Did you stop and consciously think, “He/she did that for me because he/she loves me?” I’m betting there’s a good chance you didn’t recognize it for the act of love that it was. You took it, and the other person’s love, for granted.

These thoughts came to my mind this afternoon when I stopped into a special place and prayed. I worked in Somerset, Ohio today and afterwards I visited St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, the “Cradle of Faith” and oldest Catholic Church in Ohio, to spend a few minutes with the Lord. Once again, I was the only person in the church and the perfect silence inside was ideal for some one-on-one time with Him.

As always, I began my prayer with thanksgiving. I had much for which to be grateful.

First and foremost I gave Him thanks for blessing me with a beautiful and healthy granddaughter, my first grandchild. Elsa Augusta was born to my oldest daughter, Sara, and her husband, Andy, in Seattle, Washington on the 13th. I had been praying for nine months for Sara and Elsa’s safe delivery and good health, and God answered my prayers.

I gave thanks for the wonderful weekend I had just experienced with my wife, Melinda, as we tent camped in a state park in Kentucky, our first camping trip ever without children along.

I gave thanks for the good health of another pregnant daughter and her unborn son; for the safety of another daughter and her husband in their hazardous environment occupations; and for the continued well-being of my youngest daughter in her first semester of college. I am a fortunate husband and father and I wanted to make sure He knew I appreciated all my blessings.

Finally, I thanked God for His constant and eternal love.

And then it hit me. There was a difference in today’s prayer as compared to my prayers in the past.

Up until today, my praying had become rote. I had always given thanks because that’s the first thing you’re supposed to do when you pray. Although my prayers are always sincere – as they certainly were today – I know sometimes I simply rattle off ‘thank yous’ like I’m checking them off my list.

I always give thanks for His love not because I constantly feel it (I know I probably should feel it, but, honestly, I admit I often don’t), but because I have faith and believe Jesus Christ when He tells me God’s love is constant and eternal.

There, on my knees in St. Joseph’s, it dawned on me that this may have been the first time I genuinely connected the dots.

You see, normally, I give thanks for the blessings He gives me, and I give thanks for His love, but I seem to have failed in connecting the dots and realizing that those blessings are a direct result of His love. I hadn’t made the conscious connection that, “I have been blessed because He loves me.” I know now I have often taken His love for granted.

I couldn’t help but think about how I feel when my love is not fully appreciated and I wondered how God feels after I’ve done the same to Him. And, I couldn’t help but think that, perhaps, a good way to thank God for His love and blessings is to express it sincerely to the one who is acting on His behalf, the messenger who delivered it.

Maybe it took the miracle of a new granddaughter, the intimacy of a weekend away with my wife, and the knowledge that all was well with the other primary loves in my life for me to see how all of those blessings are, indeed, a result of His complete love for me.

How are you doing at connecting the dots?

“Heavenly Father, thank You for all Your many blessings and for allowing me to experience the beauty of Your love. Please know that I love You with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind. Amen.”

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