I think the only thing more daunting than a brand new journal, is a brand new blog. At least with a journal there are a set number of pages bound together between a tangible cover that tells you where to start and when to stop. I know that I could write the same phrase over and over again and eventually reach the end. But a blog is something that, theoretically at least, has no end. Like the continuum of time and space, it stretches out before me just waiting to be filled.

Recent experiences have left me feeling like an Israelite wandering in the wilderness. You know this story. Even if you don’t know or believe in the Bible, I’m betting you’ve heard this story. The Israelites, God’s people, are in captivity in Egypt. They are in bondage, slaves to relentless taskmasters. They are begging God to hear them, to see them, to set them free. So, being the ever-loving God that He is, He does.

But freedom doesn’t look like what they thought it would.

Wandering a desert? Living in tents? Following a cloud? Really??? That’s freedom? So they did what anybody would do. They complained.

Again and again, God worked His miracles and provided for them, and every time the Israelites failed to recognize the blessing. God gave them water out of a rock. He sent them quail every evening so they could have meat. Their clothes did not wear out. Their feet did not get sore. And yet, the Israelites always respond with another complaint. “Life was so much better in Egypt! We had all the garlic and onions we could wish for!”

When the Israelites are hungry, God gives them “bread from heaven” every morning for them to eat their fill. God tells them exactly what He will do, and yet the first time this “bread from heaven” arrives they are still unable to recognize it. They call the bread “manna” which literally means “What is it?”

Having spent the last two years wandering through my own personal wilderness, I know that I am an Israelite. That’s a hard truth to acknowledge. I’d like to say that I am so much more grateful and my heart so much more teachable and my neck so much less stiff than theirs. But it’s not true. I, too, spend inordinate amounts of time grumbling about the circumstances in my wilderness. I, too, fail to recognize God’s blessings. And most of all, I too, neglect to give thanks for them.

If only the Israelites had received that bread from heaven and, instead of saying “What the heck is that?”, had been able to say “I don’t quite recognize what this is, but I know it is a good gift from a Good God. Let’s thank Him for it” maybe they would not have been so keen on returning to garlic and onions and bondage.

Learning a habit of gratitude does not come naturally. It requires practice. And I intend to practice here. My reaction to being presented with this blog is not unlike the Israelites’ when presented with their manna (“What is it?? What am I supposed to do with it?? Can it possibly be good for me??”) Even though I don’t see the answers clearly, I know what it is, because it resonates deep within me when I say it, “This is a gift. Thank You.”