Whether you’re feeling rock-solid in your faith or going through a period of doubt, walking in the path of righteousness or struggling with a time of trouble, the books below will remind you why you are a Christian, why you believe what you believe, and why you are loved by God. From time-tested classics to newer works, the picks on […]
How can you find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and even the death of loved ones? What does the Christ-life really look like when your days are gritty, long, and sometimes even dark? How is God even here?
“It is in the dark that God is passing by . . . our lives shake not because God has abandoned but the exact opposite. God is passing by. God is in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us...”
In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp invites you to discover a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of living that is fully alive, and a way of becoming present to God that brings deep and lasting joy. It's only in the expression of gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we've always wanted . . . a life we can take, give thanks for, and break for others. Come to feel and know the impossible right down in your bones: you are wildly loved by God.
As Ann invites you into her own beautiful, heart-aching moments of amazing grace, she gently teaches you how to:
- Biblically lament loss and turn pain into poetry
- Intentionally embrace a lifestyle of radical gratitude
- Slow down and catch God in the moment
Not a book merely to read, One Thousand Gifts is an invitation to engage with truths that will serve up the depths of God’s joy and transform your life forever. Leave pride, fear, and control behind, and abandon yourself to the God who overflows your cup.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Named by Christianity Today as one of fifty women most shaping culture and the church today, Ann knows unspoken broken, big country skies, and an intimacy with God that touches tender places. Cofounder of ShowUpNow.com, Ann is a passionate advocate for the marginalized and oppressed around the globe, partnering with Mercy House Global, Compassion International, and artisans around the world through her fair trade community, Grace Crafted Home. She and her husband took a leap of faith to restore a 125-year-old stone church into The Village Table—a place where everyone has a seat and belongs. Join the journey at www.annvoskamp.com or instagram/annvoskamp.
Read an Excerpt
One Thousand GiftsA Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are
By Ann Voskamp
ZondervanCopyright © 2010 Ann Morton Voskamp
All right reserved.
Chapter Onean emptier, fuller life
Every sin is an attempt to fly from emptiness. Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace
A glowing sun-orb fills an August sky the day this story begins, the day I am born, the day I begin to live.
And I fill my mother's tearing ring of fire with my body emerging, virgin lungs searing with air of this earth and I enter the world like every person born enters the world: with clenched fists.
From the diameter of her fullness, I empty her out — and she bleeds. Vernix-creased and squalling, I am held to the light.
Then they name me.
Could a name be any shorter? Three letters without even the flourish of an e. Ann, a trio of curves and lines.
It means "full of grace."
I haven't been.
What does it mean to live full of grace? To live fully alive?
They wash my pasty skin and I breathe and I flail. I flail.
For decades, a life, I continue to flail and strive and come up so seemingly ... empty. I haven't lived up to my christening.
Maybe in those first few years my life slowly opened, curled like cupped hands, a receptacle open to the gifts God gives. But of those years, I have no memories. They say memory jolts awake with trauma's electricity. That would be the year I turned four. The year when blood pooled and my sister died and I, all of us, snapped shut to grace.
* * *
Standing at the side porch window, watching my parents' stunned bending, I wonder if my mother had held me in those natal moments of naming like she held my sister in death.
In November light, I see my mother and father sitting on the back porch step rocking her swaddled body in their arms. I press my face to the kitchen window, the cold glass, and watch them, watch their lips move, not with sleep prayers, but with pleas for waking, whole and miraculous. It does not come. The police do. They fill out reports. Blood seeps through that blanket bound. I see that too, even now.
Memory's surge burns deep.
That staining of her blood scorches me, but less than the blister of seeing her uncovered, lying there. She had only toddled into the farm lane, wandering after a cat, and I can see the delivery truck driver sitting at the kitchen table, his head in his hands, and I remember how he sobbed that he had never seen her. But I still see her, and I cannot forget. Her body, fragile and small, crushed by a truck's load in our farmyard, blood soaking into the thirsty, track-beaten earth. That's the moment the cosmos shifted, shattering any cupping of hands. I can still hear my mother's witnessing-scream, see my father's eyes shot white through.
My parents don't press charges and they are farmers and they keep trying to breathe, keep the body moving to keep the soul from atrophying. Mama cries when she strings out the laundry. She holds my youngest baby sister, a mere three weeks old, to the breast, and I can't imagine how a woman only weeks fragile from the birth of her fourth child witnesses the blood-on-gravel death of her third child and she leaks milk for the babe and she leaks grief for the buried daughter. Dad tells us a thousand times the story after dinner, how her eyes were water-clear and without shores, how she held his neck when she hugged him and held on for dear life. We accept the day of her death as an accident. But an act allowed by God?
For years, my sister f lashes through my nights, her body crumpled on gravel. Sometimes in dreams, I cradle her in the quilt Mama made for her, pale green with the hand-embroidered Humpty Dumpty and Little Bo Peep, and she's safely cocooned. I await her unfurling and the rebirth. Instead the earth opens wide and swallows her up.
At the grave's precipice, our feet scuff dirt, and chunks of the firmament fall away. A clod of dirt hits the casket, shatters. Shatters over my little sister with the white-blonde hair, the little sister who teased me and laughed; and the way she'd throw her head back and laugh, her milk-white cheeks dimpled right through with happiness, and I'd scoop close all her belly-giggling life. They lay her gravestone f lat into the earth, a black granite slab engraved with no dates, only the five letters of her name. Aimee. It means "loved one." How she was. We had loved her. And with the laying of her gravestone, the closing up of her deathbed, so closed our lives.
Closed to any notion of grace.
* * *
Really, when you bury a child — or when you just simply get up every day and live life raw — you murmur the question soundlessly. No one hears. Can there be a good God? A God who graces with good gifts when a crib lies empty through long nights, and bugs burrow through coffins? Where is God, really? How can He be good when babies die, and marriages implode, and dreams blow away, dust in the wind? Where is grace bestowed when cancer gnaws and loneliness aches and nameless places in us soundlessly die, break off without reason, erode away. Where hides this joy of the Lord, this God who fills the earth with good things, and how do I fully live when life is full of hurt ? How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out?
My family — my dad, my mama, my brother and youngest sister — for years, we all silently ask these questions. For years, we come up empty. And over the years, we fill again — with estrangement. We live with our hands clenched tight. What God once gave us on a day in November slashed deep. Who risks again?
Years later, I sit at one end of our brown plaid couch, my dad stretched out along its length. Worn from a day driving tractor, the sun beating and the wind blowing, he asks me to stroke his hair. I stroke from that cowlick of his and back, his hair ringed from the line of his cap. He closes his eyes. I ask questions that I never would if looking into them.
"Did you ever used to go to church? Like a long time ago, Dad?" Two neighboring families take turns picking me up, a Bible in hand and a dress ironed straight, for church ser vices on Sunday mornings. Dad works.
"Yeah, as a kid I went. Your grandmother had us go every Sunday, after milking was done. That was important to her."
I keep my eyes on his dark strands of hair running through my fingers. I knead out tangles.
"But it's not important to you now?" The words barely whispered, hang.
He pushes up his plaid sleeves, shifts his head, his eyes still closed. "Oh ..."
I wait, hands combing, waiting for him to find the words for those feelings that don't fit neatly into the stiff ties, the starched collars, of sentences.
"No, I guess not anymore. When Aimee died, I was done with all of that."
Scenes blast. I close my eyes; reel.
"And, if there really is anybody up there, they sure were asleep at the wheel that day."
I don't say anything. The lump in my throat burns, this ember. I just stroke his hair. I try to sooth his pain. He finds more feelings. He stuffs them into words.
"Why let a beautiful little girl die such a senseless, needless death? And she didn't just die. She was killed."
That word twists his face. I want to hold him till it doesn't hurt, make it all go away. His eyes remain closed, but he's shaking his head now, remembering all there was to say no to that hideous November day that branded our lives.
Dad says nothing more. That shake of the head says it all, expresses our closed hands, our bruised, shaking fists. No. No benevolent Being, no grace, no meaning to it all. My dad, a good farmer who loved his daughter the way only eyes can rightly express, he rarely said all that; only sometimes, when he'd close his eyes and ask me to stroke away the day between the fingers. But these aren't things you need to say anyways. Like all beliefs, you simply live them.
Is this the toxic air of the world, this atmosphere we inhale, burning into our lungs, this No, God? No, God, we won't take what You give. No, God, Your plans are a gutted, bleeding mess and I didn't sign up for this and You really thought I'd go for this? No, God, this is ugly and this is a mess and can't You get anything right and just haul all this pain out of here and I'll take it from here, thanks. And God? Thanks for nothing. Isn't this the human inheritance, the legacy of the Garden?
I wake and put the feet to the plank floors, and I believe the Serpent's hissing lie, the repeating refrain of his campaign through the ages: God isn't good. It's the cornerstone of his movement. That God withholds good from His children, that God does not genuinely, fully, love us.
Doubting God's goodness, distrusting His intent, discontented with what He's given, we desire ... I have desired ... more. The fullest life.
I look across farm fields. The rest of the garden simply isn't enough. It will never be enough. God said humanity was not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And I moan that God has ripped away what I wanted. No, what I needed. Though I can hardly whisper it, I live as though He stole what I consider rightly mine: happiest children, marriage of unending bliss, long, content, death-defying days. I look in the mirror, and if I'm fearlessly blunt — what I have, who I am, where I am, how I am, what I've got — this simply isn't enough. That forked tongue darts and daily I live the doubt, look at my ref lection, and ask: Does God really love me? If He truly, deeply loves me, why does He withhold that which I believe will fully nourish me? Why do I live in this sense of rejection, of less than, of pain? Does He not want me to be happy?
* * *
From all of our beginnings, we keep reliving the Garden story.
Satan, he wanted more. More power, more glory. Ultimately, in his essence, Satan is an ingrate. And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden. Satan's sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave.
Isn't that the catalyst of all my sins?
Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren't satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.
Standing before that tree, laden with fruit withheld, we listen to Evil's murmur, "In the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened ..." (Genesis 3:5 NASB). But in the beginning, our eyes were already open. Our sight was perfect. Our vision let us see a world spilling with goodness. Our eyes fell on nothing but the glory of God. We saw God as He truly is: good. But we were lured by the deception that there was more to a full life, there was more to see. And, true, there was more to see: the ugliness we hadn't beheld, the sinfulness we hadn't witnessed, the loss we hadn't known.
We eat. And, in an instant, we are blind. No longer do we see God as one we can trust. No longer do we perceive Him as wholly good. No longer do we observe all of the remaining paradise.
We eat. And, in an instant, we see. Everywhere we look, we see a world of lack, a universe of loss, a cosmos of scarcity and injustice.
We are hungry. We eat. We are filled ... and emptied.
And still, we look at the fruit and see only the material means to fill our emptiness. We don't see the material world for what it is meant to be: as the means to communion with God.
We look and swell with the ache of a broken, battered planet, what we ascribe as the negligent work of an indifferent Creator (if we even think there is one). Do we ever think of this busted-up place as the result of us ingrates, unsatisfied, we who punctured it all with a bite? The fruit's poison has infected the whole of humanity. Me. I say no to what He's given. I thirst for some roborant, some elixir, to relieve the anguish of what I've believed: God isn't good. God doesn't love me.
If I'm ruthlessly honest, I may have said yes to God, yes to Christianity, but really, I have lived the no. I have. Infected by that Eden mouthful, the retina of my soul develops macular holes of blackness. From my own beginning, my sister's death tears a hole in the canvas of the world.
Losses do that. One life-loss can infect the whole of a life. Like a rash that wears through our days, our sight becomes peppered with black voids. Now everywhere we look, we only see all that isn't: holes, lack, deficiency.
In our plain country church on the edge of that hayfield enclosed by an old cedar split-rail fence, once a week on Sunday, my soul's macular holes spontaneously heal. In that church with the wooden cross nailed to the wall facing the country road, there God seems obvious. Close. Bibles lie open. The sanctuary fills with the worship of wives with babies in arms, farmers done with chores early, their hair slicked down. The Communion table spread with the emblems, that singular cup and loaf, that table that restores relationship. I remember. Here I remember Love and the Cross and a Body, and I am grafted in and held and made whole. All's upright. There, alongside Claude Martin and Ann Van den Boogaard and John Weiler and Marion Schefter and genteel Mrs. Leary, even the likes of me can see.
But the rest of the week, the days I live in the glaring harshness of an abrasive world? Complete loss of central vision. Everywhere, a world pocked with scarcity.
I hunger for filling in a world that is starved.
But from that Garden beginning, God has had a different purpose for us. His intent, since He bent low and breathed His life into the dust of our lungs, since He kissed us into being, has never been to slyly orchestrate our ruin. And yet, I have found it: He does have surprising, secret purposes. I open a Bible, and His plans, startling, lie there barefaced. It's hard to believe it, when I read it, and I have to come back to it many times, feel long across those words, make sure they are real. His love letter forever silences any doubts: "His secret purpose framed from the very beginning [is] to bring us to our full glory" (1 Corinthians 2:7 NEB). He means to rename us — to return us to our true names, our truest selves. He means to heal our soul holes. From the very beginning, that Eden beginning, that has always been and always is, to this day, His secret purpose — our return to our full glory. Appalling — that He would! Us, unworthy. And yet since we took a bite out of the fruit and tore into our own souls, that drain hole where joy seeps away, God's had this wild secretive plan. He means to fill us with glory again. With glory and grace.
Grace, it means "favor," from the Latin gratia. It connotes a free readiness. A free and ready favor. That's grace. It is one thing to choose to take the grace offered at the cross. But to choose to live as one filling with His grace? Choosing to fill with all that He freely gives and fully live — with glory and grace and God?
I know it but I don't want to: it is a choice. Living with losses, I may choose to still say yes. Choose to say yes to what He freely gives. Could I live that — the choice to open the hands to freely receive whatever God gives? If I don't, I am still making a choice.
The choice not to.
The day I met my brother-in-law at the back door, looking for his brother, looking like his brother, is the day I see it clear as a full moon rising bright over January snow, that choice, saying yes or no to God's graces, is the linchpin of it all, of everything.
My brother-in-law, he's just marking time, since Farmer Husband's made a quick run to the hardware store. He's talking about soil temperature and weather forecasts. I lean up against the door frame. The dog lies down at my feet.
John shrugs his shoulders, looks out across our wheat field. "Farmers, we think we control so much, do so much right to make a crop. And when you are farming," he turns back toward me, "you are faced with it every day. You control so little. Really. It's God who decides it all. Not us." He slips his big Dutch hands into frayed pockets, smiles easily. "It's all good."
I nod, almost say something about him just leaving that new water tank in the back shed for now instead of waiting any longer for Farmer Husband to show up. But I catch his eyes and I know I have to ask. Tentatively, eyes fixed on his, I venture back into that place I rarely go.
Excerpted from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp Copyright © 2010 by Ann Morton Voskamp. Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 an emptier, fuller life 9
Chapter 2 a word to live ... and die by 24
Chapter 3 first flight 42
Chapter 4 a sanctuary of time 62
Chapter 5 What in the world, in all this world, is grace? 79
Chapter 6 what do you want? the place of seeing god 102
Chapter 7 seeing through the glass 122
Chapter 8 how will he not also? 141
Chapter 9 go lower 163
Chapter 10 empty to fill 182
Chapter 11 the joy of intimacy 201
Bible translations 231
Q&A with Ann Voskamp, Author of One Thousand Gifts
Q: What does taking the dare to live fully really look like?
A: By default, most of us have taken the dare to simply survive. Exist. Get through. For the most part, we live numb to life we've grown weary and apathetic and jaded... and wounded. And we live these days of walking lifeless, years calloused and simply going through the hollow motions, the self-protecting by self-distracting, the body never waking, losing all capacity to fully feelthis is the hardly-life we stumble through that makes us the wild walking dead.
And to take the dare to fully live? This is about giving thanks for all the moments we've brushed by oblivious and bolting awake to this one ridiculously glorious life and battling hard to give thanks in every moment because this is how we win the struggle for joy in every moment. We are in deepest happiness in the posture of grateful worship and in choosing intentional thanks we begin to deeply, fully feel life in all its ache and all its beauty and we are doing what we are made for: giving wholesale glory to God! Could there be more to living fully alive than this?
Q: This dare to embrace everything as a gift, was a great struggle for you. How did you reconcile such indiscriminate gratitude with all of the evil in the world?
A: This has been an ongoing, heart aching struggle for me. My sister was crushed and killed before my mother's eyes, as I stood beside her. And like everyone, dear friends have battled cancer. And I have walked through city garbage heaps in developing countries where children live and call home and run barefoot along the open sewers, amidst the rotting corpses of rats and my stomach has churned ill with the evil and injustice in this world.
But I keep coming back to this: I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I've seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on summer humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks.
Q: In One Thousand Gifts, you write that there is one forgotten secret proven to increase happiness, improve physical health and deeply please God. Is there really one thing that can do all that?
A: Sounds amazing doesn't it? And it's completely true, proven time and time again in research, but more importantly, is supported by Scripture. The last ten years of research by Dr. Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis and Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology, indicates that, the just the one practice of gratitude "can increase happiness levels by around 25%. Second, this is not hard to achieve - a few moments of writing a gratitude journal over 3 weeks can create an effect that lasts 6 months if not more. Third, that cultivating gratitude brings other health effects, such as longer and better quality sleep time." And fourthly: it pleases God when we answer His call to give thanks in all things. And He asks us to do this precisely because it will make us happier, healthier and fully, wholly alive!
Q: There are countless mothers who are wearied by the repetitive tasks of running a household. What would you tell a mom to help her see that overflowing laundry basket and that pile of dishes, not as a task but as an opportunity for finding deep joy?
A: I am one of those mothers I've had six babies and I'd like to first cup that weary mama's face close and whisper, "I know, I know. You are not alone." And then I'd share with her that one line I murmur when I am struggling hard: "This is my song of thanks to You ..." In the moment of singing that one line, dedicating the work as thanks to Him, somethingthe miraclehappens, and every time. When service is unto people, the bones can grow weary, the frustration deep. Because, agrees Dorothy Sayers, "whenever man is made the centre of things, he becomes the storm-centre of trouble. The moment you think of serving people, you begin to have a notion that other people owe you something for your pains.... You will begin to bargain for reward, to angle for applause."
When the laundry is for the dozen arms of children or the dozen legs, it's true, I think I'm due some appreciation. So comes a storm of trouble and lightning strikes joy. But when Christ is at the center, when dishes, laundry, work, is my song of thanks to Him, joy rains. Passionately serving Christ alone makes us the loving servant to all. When the eyes of the heart focus on God, and the hands on always washing the feet of Jesus alonethe bones, they sing joy, and the work returns to its purest state: worship. The work becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness.
Mother Teresa encouraged with this: "The work we do is only our love for Jesus in action," writes "If we pray the work ... if we do it to Jesus, if we do it for Jesus, if we do it with Jesus .... that's what makes us content." What makes us content? It is doing all the repetitive tasks as gifts of thanks back to Jesus. Doesn't blessing Jesus, makes us the happiest? "I slept and dreamt life was joy," wrote Tagore, "I awoke and saw life was service, I acted and, behold, service was joy." Here, in the midst of the laundry and the dishes and the dust and cookbooks, we can become the blessing, a little life that multiplies joy, making the larger world a better place. God can enter into us, even the mama in the midst, and use these hands, these feet, to be His love, a love that goes on and on and on forever, endless cycle of grace!
Q: Many Christians say busyness is an obstacle in their relationship with God. In One Thousand Gifts you talk about slowing down time. What do you mean by that?
A: Oh, I know it! In a world with cows to buy and fields to see and work to do, in the beep and blink of the twenty-first century, with its "live in the moment" buzz phrase that none of the whirl-weary seem to know how to do, who actually knows how to take time and live with soul and body and God all in sync? God gives us time - but who has time for God? We're addicted to speed, and we blur the moments into one unholy smear. And all this hurry makes us hurt.
This is it: Time is a relentless river. It rages on, a respecter of no one. And this, this is the only way to slow time: When we fully enter time's swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all or our attention, we slow the torrent with the weight of us all here. We can slow the torrent by being all here. We only live the full life when we live fully in the moment. And when we're always looking to give thanks for the next blessing, looking for the next glimpse of glory, we slow and enter. And time slows. It's this counting the blessings, looking for gifts, sleuthing for the glory that slows a life gloriously. Giving thanks for one thousand things is ultimately an invitation to slow time down with weight of full attention. It is thanks for this moment that slows this moment in time.
Q: In One Thousand Gifts, you were able to share extremely personal stories. You've suffered from agoraphobia, panic attacks and cutting in your teens. There was a horrific accident that killed your sister and put your mother in a psychiatric ward. How did this list of one thousand gifts help you break free of those ghosts that threatened to kill you?
A: Oh, the past and the pain can just about kill us and it's the tight grip of fear keeps a life small and I've lived the strangle. In a storm of struggles, I have tried to control the elements, clasp the fist tight so as to protect self and happiness. But stress can be an addiction and worry can be our lunge for control and we forget the answer to this moment is always yes because of Christ.
I've been the woman hurting, the woman anxious, the woman overwhelmed, and writing a list of a thousand blessings gave me this gift: I am the woman wooed! And writing out a list of a thousand blessings healed me because it was this: counting all the ways He loves me. Love saved me! What I knew in my head, I now knew it in my veins: I was loved. I was held. I could open up my hand and say yes to this moment whatever the moment held because the list of 1000 gifts taught me this deep down in my bones: God is always good and I am always loved. I could let go. Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control ... let go of my own way, let go of my own fears. I could leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and I could whisper surprised thanks. Counting His graces has awakened me to how He cherishes me, holds me, and passionately values me. I can empty of all the fears because I am full of His love. I can trust. Perfect love casts out all fear.
Q: You confess to being a control-freak and you've wrestled with negativity and anxiety. How have you learned to silence that with practical answers?
A: I have discovered this: You can't positive-think your way out of negative feelings. Feelings work faster than thoughts; blood runs faster than synapses. The only way to fight a feeling is with a feeling. The only way to fight feelings of anxiety and negativity and stress - isn't with thoughts and mental affirmations but with another feeling: Gratitude. Can I intentionally and purposefully give thanks in this moment even if aloud, if need be? It's impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear. We can only feel one feeling and a time and the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving. This is the anti-anxiety medicine I try to lay in my wide-open palm every day.
Q: As you write, life is filled with losses. Every day we know that eventually we're guaranteed to lose every person we cherish. How should Christians respond biblically to this reality?
A: Life is loss. Every day, the gnawing ... What will I lose? Health? Comfort? Hope? Eventually, I am guaranteed to lose every earthly thing I have ever possessed. When will I lose? Today? In a few weeks? How much time have I got before the next loss? Who will I lose? And that's definite: I will lose every single person I have ever loved. Either abruptly or eventually. All human relationships end in loss. Am I prepared for that?
And one life-loss can infect the whole of a life. Like a rash that wears through our days, our sight becomes peppered with black void of all that is gone, loss, ache.
First to learn what it means to biblically lament the losses and not simply complain: Lament is a cry of belief in a good God, a God who has His ear to our hearts, a God who transfigures the ugly into beauty. Complaint is the bitter howl of unbelief in any benevolent God in this moment, a distrust in the love-beat of the Father's heart. Complaint implies doubt in His love. Lament aches and hurts and is real in expressing that pain but trusts the heart of God.
And in this genuine, authentic lamenting of our losses, God whispers to us in this thrum of love all around us: You may suffer loss but in Me is anything ever lost, really? Isn't everything that belongs to Christ also yours? Loved ones lost still belong to Himthen aren't they still yours? Do I not own the cattle on a thousand hills; everything? Aren't then all provisions, in Christ also yours? If you haven't lost Christ, child, nothing is ever lost. Remember, "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" [Acts 14:22 NASB], and in "sharing in [my Son's] sufferings, becoming like him in his death" you come "to know Christ and the power of his resurrection" [Philippians 3:10 NIV].
Q: The heart of your book is really about imitating what Jesus demonstrated in his final hours and you call it "eucharisteo." To you, this is the heart of Christianity that most people haven't noticed before. Tell us why you think eucharistic living is what it means to be a Christian?
A: Yes, it's all Greek to me, but this is the word that can change everything: "eucharisteo" it comes right out of the Gospel of Luke:
"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them ..." (Luke 22:19 NIV). In the original language, "he gave thanks" reads "eucharisteo."
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.
Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning "joy." Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy.
Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteothe table of thanksgiving. The holy grail of joy, God's set it in very the center of Christianity the eucharist is the central symbol of Christianity. Doesn't the continual repetition of beginning our week at the table of the Eucharist clearly place the whole of our lives into the context of thanksgiving?
One of Christ's very last directives He offers to His disciples is take the bread, the wine, and to remember. Do this in remembrance of Me. Remember and give thanks.
This is the crux of Christianity: to remember and give thanks, eucharisteo.
Why? Why is remembering and giving thanks the core of the Chrst-faith? Because remembering with thanks is what causes us to trustto really believe. Re-membering, giving thanks, is what makes us a member again of the body of Christ. Re-membering, giving thanks is what puts us back together again in this hurried, broken, fragmented world.
It was these verses that upended my understanding what it means to be a Christian, verses I think we've generally under interpreted: "One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked himand he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well." (Luke 17:15-19 NIV)
But hadn't Jesus already completely healed him? Exactly like the other nine who were cured who hadn't bothered to return and thank Him. So what does Jesus mean, "Your faith has made you well"? "Well" is sozo in the Greek. Many translations render sozo as being made "well" or "whole," but its literal meaning is"to save." Sozo means salvation. It means true wellness, complete wholeness. When did the leper receive sozothe saving to the full, whole life? When he returned and gave thanks. Our very saving is associated with our gratitude. If our fall was the non-eucharisteo, the ingratitude, then salvation must be intimately related to eucharisteo, the giving of thanks. Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace. Thanksgiving is inherent to a true salvation experience; thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life.
Q: Please leave us with one inspiring story of how the list of gifts has changed you and how you live today.
Every breath's a battle between grudgery and gratitude and we must keep thanks on the lips so we can sip from the holy grail of joy. Nowhere else in the whole tilting universe lies the joy of the Lord but in that one word. And one day, after years of writing thousands of His blessings, I stood in our kitchen with the dishes and a basket of laundry on my hip, looking out the window towards the apple blossoms filling all the orchard, and I can hear Him, what He's telling the whole world and even me here: this is for you. The lover's smile in the morning, the child's laughter down the slide, the elder's eyes at eventide: this is for you. And the earth under your feet, the rain over your face upturned, the stars spinning all round you in the brazen glory: this is for you, you, you. These are for yougiftsthese are for yougracethese are for youGod, so count the ways He loves, a thousand, more, never stop, that when you wake in the morning you can't help turn humbly to the east, unfold your hand to the heavens, and though you tremble and though you wonder, though the world is ugly, it is beautiful, and you can slow and you can trust and you can receive each moment as grace. Eucharisteo. Eucharisteo. Eucharisteo.