Okay, so I follow Ann Voskamp’s (the wonderful woman who wrote this book called One Thousand Gifts that utterly changed my life) blog, and today, she wrote a post that is an excerpt from her book One Thousand Gifts. It’s about being busy and rushed. If you’d like to check it out, here’s the link:
That’s all! :)
P.S. I’m thankful for you, too! :)
eucharisteo-it’s the Greek word for thanks-giving. One of its root words–chara–means joy. Another root word–charis–means grace.
And so begins the changing of my life.
I’m currently reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It’s absolutely amazing. I mean—life changing. It has, most literally, changed my life. She tells her story–just everyday life–and lets us in on her most fragile moments. Her heart-aches. Her struggles. It is so honest..there is no embellishment, no exaggeration for a good story. She tells her life as it is: raw, joyful, painful,…grateful. She lets us in on this little secret: perhaps it is thanksgiving (not the holiday, the act.) that is the key to joy in our short, starved lives.
“The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live…He has penetrated the whole mystery of life…” -Albert Schweitzer
Not that thanksgiving should be anything to take the place of Christ. No. Not at all. It should be an act at the center of our lives in Christ. Giving thanks. Eucharisteo. We should give thanks to God at all times, in all things, for all things. Our small acts of praise–however minute–will bring glory to God who created all things and who holds the universe in the palm of his hands and who has made (or will make) all things good in His time.
I started reading this book at a time in my life when, it’s really hard to explain, but life was just difficult. I found no happiness, no joy. I had a relationship with God, kinda, I guess, but it was hard to focus on it. I kept questioning God. I felt like I was always messing up. I just felt like, “God, why isn’t this going my way? Will anything ever work out well for me?” Well…this book told me yes. Yes, God does have a plan. Yes everything’s gonna be ok. But it is only in eucharisteo that we can have sozo–Greek for complete wellness or wholeness.
In the 3rd chapter, Voskamp introduces the thing–essentially eucharisteo–that changed her life. She only refers to it as “The List” (and, yes, it is capitalized like that.) to begin with. Then we find out: she has been dared to write down a list of 1,000 things she is grateful for or that she loves. When I first read this, I was just like, “What? That’s it? That’s the key to your brilliantly wonderful life?” But I kept reading. She wasn’t writing down the things that, in theory, she should have thanked God for anyway (like family, food, etc.). She was writing down things that she actually felt gratitude towards God for giving her. And, mostly, it was just the small things that we rarely ever notice: the beauty of the moon, morning shadows, whispers. It sounds sosososo simple. I kept reading, and I decided to join her. I decided to start writing down these things that I see as gifts from God. It couldn’t hurt, right?
As soon as I started making note of these small things, I couldn’t stop! It was so addicting. I always was looking for something to write down in my journal, always finding something else to be grateful for. Always finding joy in the small pleasures granted.
But eucharisteo has more than one side. There is, always lurking, a painful experience, a frustrating day, a word spoken too harshly. We are supposed to give thanks in those moments, too, for those things. And this is where we, as children, are supposed to learn from experience. To learn, as pupils of God’s word. This is where we have to understand that this is God’s plan and he has it all under control and all things work for the good of those who love him. We have to live the hard eucharisteo, too. It doesn’t come easy…I’m not even sure I have come close to mastering it…but we have to learn. It’s just a process, I guess.
And on those days where more time still isn’t enough time? When there’s always something else to do, someone else to call, somewhere else to be…when all we need is just a little more time? I’ve had those days, when I’m stretched the entire 24 hours in the day, and, by the end, I’m tired…not just to my bones, but straight through to my soul. Have you ever had one of those days? Where all you want to do is have a moment to just breathe. Well, I’ve had plenty of them. Ann Voskamp says that the key to more time is slowing down just enough to give thanks. In those moments, time stretches.
I don’t necessarily want more than enough time, I just want enough time. Here’s what Voskamp says:
“I don’t really want more time; I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long, time to give you glory and rest deep and sing joy, and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded , pressed driven, or wild to get it all done–yesterday….I just want time to do my one life well.” Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p. 69
I just want the perfect amount of time…time to give you glory and live this short life to its fullest. Voskamp makes a comparison: when she is “thanks-full” she is “time-full.” This is an absolutely glorious revelation! In giving thanks to God, we stretch the time we have left…maybe it’s just that eucharisteo makes us realize how precious each moment is, and so, each moment becomes more precious, more full. I don’t know.
One act of thanksgiving when things go wrong with us, is worth a thousand thanks when things are agreeable to our inclinations. -St. John of Avila
Always the hard eucharisteo. There’s always something that is so painful that I need to be grateful for. A bad grade. A lesson learned the hard way. Difficult circumstances. Sure, perhaps we can find God’s grace in a relative who gets cancer…and then survives. I mean, they survived! But what if they don’t? How can we see God’s grace in that??? Ah, but we aren’t looking from God’s eyes. From God’s perspective we can understand. God knows the whole story. He has our lives already written out. He knows how our struggles will turn out for good. He planned it, after all.
So when those hard times come, maybe I can ask God to show me his point of view…maybe I can just trust that He is going to fulfill His promises…
Ultimately, I should be thankful for everything. The breath God keeps putting in my lungs, the numerous days I have left…
Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?
Don’t you see the wonder of our lives??? Can’t you see the importance of eucharisteo? Why am I allowed to live in peace? I don’t deserve it! The grace of a life given by God! A god who loves me enough to die for me! Why do I get two? Why?
God, thank you for the blessings of this life that you have given me. Forgive me for not acknowledging your blessings. Let me see with your eyes all you have given me. Give me grace. Give me a grateful heart. A heart that will willingly receive the good, sweet candy and also the sour medicine that you so graciously provide. Thank you.
One last thing, and I promise I’ll conclude this lengthy post. Joy is found in serving others. We only receive God’s ever-increasing gifts with servanthood. When we lay down our pride, we find joy at the feet of others.
Okay, that’s it! :)
If you would like to join me in writing down One Thousand Blessings, feel free. And, if you’d like, email me and let me know how it’s going! :)
Thanks for reading this whole post, too! :)
I guess if you’ve been on any social networking site since Tuesday, you probably know what the Kony 2012 campaign is. If you haven’t, you really need to check it out…here’s the video. Try to watch it when you have time (it’s about 30 minutes long).
Well, there’s been some criticism of the organization, and I’ve been trying to research it a little. People are questioning the integrity of this organization and the truth of their accusations. People are questioning the good it will do to support the Ugandan military when Kony is not just in Uganda anymore. People are questioning how supporting the Ugandan military will help the cause, as the Ugandan military is also known for rapes and violence. I, for one, support this campaign. Here’s some links to check out:
My opinion on this subject is that, whether the organization is completely trustworthy or whether it is telling the whole truth or not, at least it is shedding light on a situation that needs to be fixed. At least it is uniting the people of America for a good cause. At least it’s not another example of human stupidity that has been posted on the internet.
This cause needs attention. This cause needs backing. Right now, there are innocent children having their innocence yanked from their hands. I was in church this morning and a young girl came down to accept Jesus as her Savior. Her eyes were so bright and happy. She was so INNOCENT. How many children, I wondered, must pay with their innocence? American children are so blessed to have a country that is richer than most of the world. They are so blessed to have a country that isn’t trying to take away their rights. They are just so darn blessed. On the other hand, children all over Africa are losing their innocence to Kony’s “cause.”
So just because the organization may not be entirely credible, we won’t help these children. In our ignorance, children will continue to be enlisted for Kony because we couldn’t just see the big picture? I don’t think so. What Kony, and possibly the Ugandan military, is doing enrages me. I cannot sit idly, doing nothing about the issues brought to my attention. It’s just that simple.
I want Kony caught. I want Kony tried. I want Kony brought to justice. I don’t want Kony to be killed. I want him to be forgiven. I want him to experience God’s forgiveness. Now, I understand forgiving one of the world’s worst war criminals is difficult. I just stated how enraged his heinous crimes make me. But God asks us to forgive each other. Here’s what Jesus says:
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times but seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents (one talent was equivalent to 20 years worth of laborers wages.) And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (one day’s wage), and seizing him, began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to theur master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers (also, torturers) until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
“And whenever you stand praying, forgive if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Okay, I know all that was really long, but the point is this: when Jesus died on the cross, he died for the forgiveness of all sins, not just the sins that aren’t “awful.” He died for my little white lies, and he died for Kony’s enslaving of thousands of children. God commands us to forgive, no matter how bad someone has hurt us, no matter how evil someone may be. Should Kony repent and accept Jesus as his savior, God would forgive him and forget everything. God is so much more holy than we could ever hope to be. We should not be too arrogant to think we are better than forgiving a fellow human his trespasses.
The only issue I have with this campaign is this: it focuses only on Kony’s capture. When Kony is captured, what will happen to all the girls who are sex slaves? What will happen to all the boys who have been recruited for his army? Kony’s entire army might be completely capable of continuing without him. He has to have advisors or leaders beyond himself. They might carry on business as usual without him. No. These children need to be recovered, they need to be treated for all the physical and phsycological harm they endured, they need to return home. Because this campaign isn’t about Kony. It’s about who he has hurt.
One last thing: I read a book recently about a child soldier. It was right before the whole Kony campaign started. It completely broke my heart. It wrecked my understanding of foreign countries. It changed me. I felt physical pain and heartache. I suggest you read it. It’s called A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah.
Have you ever wondered what Jesus was like? Was he always serious? Was he fun to hang out with? Was he sarcastic? Was he sad a lot? Or ever? Did he talk a lot? What did he talk about? Did he always talk about God? Was he popular? Was he an outcast?
What did he do when he wasn’t with the disciples? Where did he go? Who did he talk to? How many more awesome stories happened that we just don’t know about?
What was he like when he was a kid? Was he the perfect child? Was he really smart? Was he athletic? Did he like to read? Could he sing?
What did he look like? Was he really handsome or cute or hot? Was he a popular kid? Was he a dork? Did he have acne? Was he awkward? Was he a peacekeeper or did he stir things up?
If Jesus were living now, would he take AP classes? Would he participate in band or athletics or choir? Would he have a whole bunch of friends? Would he have just one or two? Did he have a specific group of friends or did he hang out with everyone?
Who was Jesus, really?
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall live, an everyone who believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” Luke 11:21-27
Do you even realize how awesome this is!?! I mean, this is the woman who was too caught up in the busyness of life–too caught up in all of her “extracurriculars”–to stop and worship Jesus. Now, she proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, the Promised One. She believes without a doubt that Jesus can raise Lazarus, but she is willing to let Jesus abide by God’s holy plan. She knows that he knows what is best, whether Lazarus comes back to life or not.
On top of all that, she is going against the majority of the times. Most people didn’t believe that Jesus was God’s son. To believe such a thing was blasphemy. You could be imprisoned or killed for it! But this woman had such faith as to say out loud that Jesus is the Christ. And she believed with all of her heart.
God wrought such a great change in her life. From a simple busybody who had no time for God to one who will leave her life at the Lord’s hands. What faith! The transformation only goes to prove God’s glory! Anyway, I was just doing my little devotional and thought I’d share my random thought. :)
I’ve decided that as a “goodbye” to 2011, I will look back at some of my thoughts from my journal. I’m really surprised how the most basic themes in all of these quotes remains the same…I still long for the very thing these quotes mention.
“I think God is completely complex and deep and unfathomable. Even after just a few days, I have learned so much; then, I think that in all the time humans have been on the earth, we still don’t know anything about God.”
“Today, God has really been convicting me. Of being “content” ( according to Paul in Phil. 4), of being passionate, of what I’m doing with my time while I wait for my future career.”
“To make it through this life, God is really gonna have to hold me up. It sounds great, but standing with God in the desert when you’re thirsty,stricken with heat, and you have sand in your shoes is not always as uplifting or easy as it can seem.”
” As with every year since I surrendered to God’s plan for my life, I am even more convinced of my calling.”
“I was once so certain. I thought I had my plan down, but that was the problem…it was my plan, not God’s.”
“I wait expectantly, anxiously, to know God and his will more. What are his plans for me this year? I pray I will comprehend his plan and cling to it!”
“But through all of this I pray that I will keep my eyes focused on the prize: our savior, our Lord, our all-powerful King of Kings.”
“Praise to the Creator of the heavens. Praise to he who chose to die for those who hate him. Praise to him who loves the unloveable. Praise him…Praise him until there are no words left to say and then praise him some more.”
“May I never comprehend your mysterious presence. May my fervent prayer to be to know you more.”
“So, God, give me love. Give me bucket loads, that I may share it!”
“Lead people into a ministry, into going on a mission trip, into changing the world for Your purpose. I also pray for anyone we may come into cantact with while living to further Your kingdom. I pray that they will be changed by Your great love.”
“I ask that you set our hearts on fire with a burning passion for telling others about you. May that passion never be stifled.”
Wow. I am so shocked at the vastness of a single year… so much has happened, and yet a year is only a small pinpoint on the map of eternity. It’s just awesome!
Goodbye 2011…and Hello 2012! I welcome all the change you may bring!
I want to have a heart like Mary’s. You know, in Luke 10:38-42, Martha opens her home to Jesus and his followers. She works in the kitchen while Mary sits at his feet and listens. Then when Martha becomes indignant that Mary isn’t doing anything, Jesus rebukes Martha for not choosing “what is better.”
I have a heart like Martha’s. I want a heart like Mary’s. But can I become like Mary? What if I really do get a heart like Mary’s? What if?
What if I begin to listen to God and stop worrying about school and church and babysitting and missions? What if? What if God wants me to give up AP Classes? What if God wants me to give up band? What if God wants me to give up honor bands? What if God asks me to stop helping so much at church? What if God asks me to go on more mission trips? What if God asks me to give up all my plans for college? What if God asks me to give up college completely? What if God doesn’t want me to have a family? What. If.
You see, this is what happens when I give up trying to do everything. I could end up with nothing I had originally planned on–Actually, I think that was probably God’s whole diabolical plan: allow us to plan out our lives, and then he rips everything from our grasp. He’s not that evil, but it can seem that way.
I guess what I really need is faith and trust–I need to just give it all to God. But my Martha heart still wants to control every tiny detail…we’ll just have to wait and see how this one goes, I guess…