I’ve started this year reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. The style is poetic, sometimes intrusively so, but the thesis is wonderful, and wonderfully elaborated. We all need this.
This bit of analysis from chapter 2 summarizes it:
“And he took bread, gave thanks and brake it, and gave it to them…” (Luke 22:19 NIV).
….I thumb, run my finger across the pages of the heavy and thick books bound. I read it slowly. In the original language, “he gave thanks” reads “eucharisteo.”
I underline it on the page. Can it lay a sure foundation under a life? Offer the fullest life?
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…..
Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo–the table of thanksgiving. I sit there long…wondering…is it that simple?
Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks?
So then as long as thanks is possible…I think this through. 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 and now.
Think of every illness you’ve ever had: not just the serious sicknesses, but even every cold and flu. Canker sores and rashes, too. Seriously, make a list. You’ll be surprised. There must be dozens. Your body has recovered from them all.
Think of every injury you’ve ever had: not just the broken bones, but every paper cut, every jammed knuckle, every bruise, every stubbed toe, every sprain, and any and all boo-boos since you were born. There must be dozens of these, too, if not more. Your body has healed them all.
Think of every headache, every sensitive tooth, every stomach ache, every stiff back, and any other soreness you’ve ever had. These could number in the hundreds. Your body has persevered in spite of them all, overcome them all, and continued to serve you and allow you to live each day after they’ve been forgotten.
Near the end of a truly rousing, inspirational sermon, the Biblical prophet Samuel tells his congregation:
Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. 1 Samuel 12:24
This has now become one of my favorite scriptures. Why? because it explicitly links our faithful obedience to God and our work in His service, to gratitude for all of the infinite blessings that have first been poured out on us.
I actually think that the “thankfulness-leads-to-devotion” relationship is pretty rarely articulated in the scriptures. The next best one that I can think of comes from the New Testament:
We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19
It’s good to be reminded of this. God has shown us great love, and always will. Obedient discipleship is the least we can do in return; indeed, is precisely the one thing that He does ask of us:
And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,
To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? Deuteronomy 10:12-13