One cold, crunchy morning this week we had to rise early to travel to an 8am appointment in town. We drove silently through the chilly darkness dreaming of strong coffee with cream. The sun woke up not long after we were on the road and began to backlight the overcast sky ahead of us.
Suddenly a strangely familiar feeling swept over me; familiar in a way I couldn’t identify but somehow it was mine. It took a few seconds to recall but then it came to me. My eyes moved up to the grey sky ahead and my lips whispered, “Father, thank you for today.”
I think it began a little over five years ago after my wife had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Our family was beginning a journey through an emotional cocktail of illness, sadness, busyness, and unrelenting stress. It was during that time that I began a silly practice born out of my frail need to pray, yet with no real way to express myself.
As I searched to connect my empty soul with something, I fell into an easy morning habit. During each commute into Toronto I would look up at the morning sky ahead of me and simply say, Father, thank you for today.
Over the next months those five words would mature and become fuller – my heart calling out for help, for strength, for some kind of meaning. The weather or condition of the sky didn’t matter, I just needed a moment to look up at it and feel that God was there.
Often I simply gutted out those words and waited with a frayed heart and mind. Sometimes I had volumes more to pray, sometimes there was nothing more. Sometimes I would ask for additional favours, sometimes not. Occasionally it unleashed high emotion but often it was just a way to start my day.
Frequently that was all I would say. I can’t explain it but somehow those simple words came to fully express everything I needed. Somehow the windshield and the sky conspired to draw the inexpressible out of me.
After her passing I began to commute to work regularly again and the simple prayer continued each morning as I mourned and healed.
At some point I realized that these simplest moments with God were also my best ones. Even weekends were special as I would rise at the usual time, brew my first coffee, and breathe my sentence prayer as the sun began to paint the morning.
I met Cheryl a couple years later and my morning commutes continued after we were married, as did my daily prayers, eyes to the sky. New things to be thankful for; new things to express.
I retired a few months after our wedding and gratefully concluded more than twenty years of commuting. But it wasn’t until the cold morning this week that I realized my retirement had changed those daily rhythms and I had misplaced my morning moment with God.
I’m not sure what was so powerful about my morning thank you: Was it the act of expressing thanks? Was it my neediness? Was it the quiet of the commute? Was it the hope of an open sky? No matter. My soul had grown to need, even crave, those truest moments with God.
So it was nice to be reminded of that today and I determined to find a new rhythm the morning sky. Our house has a large easterly patio window and deck, maybe I’ll start there.
Prayer Sky: I really miss it. I really need it. “Father, thank you for today.”
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” – from Romans 8 (NLT)