Thursday, April 14, 2011

One Thousand Gifts

"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)

"I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth."
(Psalm 34:1)

These two verses have been on my mind and heart for a couple of weeks. I've tried to spend a lot of time meditating and praying on the depth of these verses. What does it look like to give thanks in everything? How does it sound to continually have the praises of the Lord in my mouth?

I was always taught not to use such definitive words in my writings because they are binding. How is the Word of God binding us in these two verses? These verses aren't merely suggestions. They are commandments. As a follower of Christ, I am to give thanks in every situation and continually have words of praise flowing from my mouth. That is a challenge for me.

Keep those thoughts in mind as I digress for just a moment. I will come back to this.

As I mentioned earlier this year, it is my goal to read at least 50 books in 2011. I started making my list at the end of last year. I asked friends for suggestions, checked out some "must read" lists, and got a few ideas from some blogs I stalk. One book suggested on a blog was One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. At the time that I added it to my list, I only knew that it is written by a Christian, homeschooling mom of 6 and it's about living your life more fully for Christ.

I was out running some errands this past Monday and decided to stop into the Christian bookstore. As I was walking around, I noticed One Thousand Gifts sitting out on a display shelf. It grabbed my attention for two reasons: I knew it was on my list and it was on sale! So, I took a copy, found another book on my list, and headed out the door. The cover of the book is so attractive and had me excited to start reading immediately. (I go against the rule of not "judging a book by it's cover." I do it all the time!)

No doubt, God was working my life through this book. As soon as I started reading, I just smiled and sighed. This is one of my favorite passages from the book so far:

"The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning "grace." Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks.

But there is more, and I read it. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning "joy." Joy.

...As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible. Joy is always possible. Whenever, meaning - now; wherever, meaning - here. The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be - unbelievably - possible! The only place we need to see before we die is this place of seeing God, here now." (One Thousand Gifts, p. 32-33)

I'm only a few chapters into the book, but I have had several moments of deep sighing, smiling in awe, and "yes, that's it." The author challenges herself (and the readers) to have joy and give thanks in all things. She does this by seeing the gifts of God in the small, seemingly mundane parts of life. She begins making a list of one thousand gifts in her day-to-day life. Her words are simply poetic, beautiful, and filled with praises for God's creation.

Remember the two verses on my mind and my thoughts on them? Perhaps I am beginning to find an answer for what it looks like to give thanks in all things and to bless the Lord at all times.

I give thanks that God is God and I am not. I give thanks for that His mercies are new each morning. I give thanks for the beauty of the life around me. I give thanks for salvation and the peace in knowing He is on the throne. I praise Him for the strength, mercy, and protection to get through trials. I praise His perfect plan. I praise Him for the storms of life that make us stronger.

I have started my own list of one thousand gifts from God in my life. I won't share all one thousand with you, but I will share a few from time to time. These are a few on my list for today.

  • books which speak the words and thoughts of my heart
  • mornings warm with the sun's rays and ribbons of cool breeze
  • warm towels to hug my shoulders
  • the song of birds floating in through the windows
  • hot tea as the perfect companion during time in the Word
  • journal pages filled with reminders of those who need the Father's mercy and grace
  • early morning kisses to carry me through the day
  • music of praise filling the house
  • freshly cleaned clothes
  • a house to tend and keep clean

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