Living Extraordinary Lives Begins with Gratitude

It’s an ordinary time on an ordinary day,
It’s the simple things we do that take our breath away.
And the more we pay attention to every day that fills our eyes
The more we live extraordinary lives.

- “Extraordinary Lives,” by Steve Givens and Phil Cooper

Day's Beginning: Surprise me. SJG photo.

Gratitude, it seems to me, is the starting point for our lives of prayer, creativity and living well among others. But gratitude is easy to say and harder to live by because it’s hard work. Saying “thank you” to God and to others around us is the simplest thing to do and, yet, we so often forget to do it. Or don’t make time to do it. Or don’t make it a part of our daily experience.

Today I offer a short reflection, a brief, two-pronged approach to a life of gratitude, followed by a new song called “Extraordinary Lives,” composed with my friend and co-creator Phil Cooper. [The song will be on the forthcoming CD by the Mo Bottom Project, scheduled for release this summer. If you’d like to reserve a copy shoot me an email!]

So how can we live lives filled with gratitude? It begins with our expectations that something unexpected and filled with blessing awaits us. It begins with the simplest of prayers at the start of each day that is some version of this: Surprise me today, Lord. Show me something I’ve never seen before. Give me a new vision of something I’ve seen every day of my life. Put a new person, experience or opportunity into my life. The real secret of this approach to prayer (and to living) is that we’re turning over our day to God. We’re not trying to figure out what this new thing should be. We’re not trying to network our way into a new relationship. We’re not setting out to find a new experience. We’re leaving it to God. Surprise me.

But the second part of this prayer is equally important. We have to remember to pay attention, to recognize the moments when God delivers on our request and says, “here ya go…surprise!” Again, this sounds all too simple. But honestly ask yourself this question: How often do you make your way through your day with absolutely no awareness of what happened to you? So wrapped in our responsibilities and busy-ness, our heads hit our pillows and we’re so exhausted we fall asleep with no idea of what we encountered during our day. We have no idea what hit us. It happens to us all, but it doesn’t need to.

Day's End: Where did God show up? SJG photo.

When we start our day with the prayer of “surprise me” and end it with “what happened to me today,” we begin to live our lives in awareness. We begin to see the movement of God where we thought there was nothingness. We begin to recognize the kindness of strangers where we thought we were alone. We begin to see the hand of God in the beauty the world displays but we so often ignore.

It’s time to begin living our lives like they mean something. Like they are miracles and gifts. Like they are extraordinary.

Enjoy our song. The lyrics are below and you can listen by clicking here: Extraordinary Lives 41416.

It’s an ordinary time on an ordinary day,
It’s the simple things we do that take our breath away.
And the more we pay attention to every day that fills our eyes
The more we live extraordinary lives.

One day I stood out by the road,
And beyond my fields the river flowed.
Gold stalks shimmered in the light
My soul on fire, my mind in flight.

It was just one moment in the sun,
A reckoning when day was done.
A time to stand and be amazed,
For we spend our lives as we spend our days.

When we look ahead, say, “someday soon.”
When we wring our hands and count the moons.
When we fret the sands in the hourglass
We can miss the days that become our past.

So with the sun each day I rise,
My only prayer, to be surprised.
By the beauty that the world displays
For we spend our lives as we spend our days.

“Extraordinary Lives,” lyrics by Steve Givens, music by Steve Givens and Phil Cooper. Violin composed and performed by Connor Coffey. Copyright 2016, Potter’s Mark Music.

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