I don’t blog about my personal life.

I like to cast my vision outward on the worlds of politics, media, popular culture, and religion. That’s more interesting to me than gazing inward and summarizing the findings in cyberspace. (Not that there aren’t bloggers who may do this well). But attempts at cultural criticism, not self-inspection reports, are a favor to my readers, I’m sure. They’re also safer: the cool, critical observer pronouncing with relative dispassion on Glenn Beck this and Hollywood that.

But I’ve been challenged in recent days by some struggles and difficulties. I’m not going to disclose them here (still won’t blog about my personal life). But I’ve noticed some things that seem worth sharing.

I tend to retreat in the midst of difficulty–to close in on myself, shut others out. I’m fearful and pessimistic, anxious and irritable. I don’t do the things I’ve recommended to friends in similar situations. I obsess. I end up exhausted.

Prayer is difficult for me and always has been. Just today I read a piece in the latest issue of The Christian Century that begins with words I could have written:

I have never felt comfortable praying. I almost feel that I should put the word in quotes, as I’m never quite sure that what I do deserves the name.

Lately — but before this week from hell — I’ve been trying to pray simple prayers of gratitude; to practice thankfulness in small breath prayers whispered throughout the day. Part of me resists even this: it seems a little cheesy; it smacks of the kind of “power of positive thinking” that I dislike intensely (and that I’ve blogged about in the past).

But the command (or is it an invitation?) to “give thanks in all things” is scriptural and I spend a good deal of time talking and writing (as much for myself as for others) about the need to take the Bible seriously.

So I’ve been trying to give thanks in all things. And what I think is that it doesn’t really matter so much whether I feel particularly thankful. I don’t feel the least bit thankful for what I’m dealing with right now. But when I try to pray a simple thanksgiving prayer I’m not sending signals to the universe about my current state of mind; rather, I’m trying to cultivate a habit, a way of being, that might sometime, over time — sooner rather than later, I hope — transform me into a person who can say those words with my lips and mean them with my whole self.