Have you ever read a book that completely changed your life?
If you have, I'd love to know what it was! (Let me know in the comments!) And if you haven't, can I recommend two things? The first, read more, friend. :) Whatever genre you like most, dive into a book in it. And then maybe go outside of your comfort zone and read something from a different genre. Borrow one from a friend or the library. Download an audio book. Pick up one from a thrift store. Words have great power. And there is a unique, transformative power in the written word. Secondly, I'll recommend this book to you: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I definitely have a list of life-changing books (I'll share my top five after this October series), but this one is at the top of the list and so beautifully deals with the topics of gratitude and grace.
Ann's work, One Thousand Gifts, radically altered my perspective on life and outlook on life. She expands and deepens the meaning of gratitude. She notes early on in her book, "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" (page 15). God's gifts are grace. And when we accept them with gratitude, we accept His grace. Living a life of gratitude is living a joyful life of reflecting God's grace.
Ann comes to Luke 22:19 in her search of a meaningful life: "And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'” She poetically investigates those words in the final hours of Jesus' life and the weight of them.
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.
The connections with these words are a bit lost in English translation. But when we go back to the original Greek, we can see how intricately woven these words are. And if we want to live lives of gratitude and grace, we need to see how these two things cannot be separated. And in fact, gratitude and grace and joy cannot be separated. "Grace, thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisteo. A Greek word...that makes meaning of everything?" (page 33).
God's grace is in all things. And when we respond to His grace, to His gifts, with gratitude, with thanksgiving, we increase our joy. The more I say thank you to Jesus, the more I grow in joy. The more I say thank you to Jesus, the more I see His grace in all things. And a life lived with eyes to see grace and a heart that responds with thanksgiving is a life characterized by joy. A life of meaning, depth, beauty, fullness.
May we live in light of His constant grace with gratitude and joy. And may our grateful and joy-filled lives point others to the Jesus who broke bread and gave thanks and then went to the cross. May many be drawn to the gospel because of lives of eucharisteo.
Voskamp, Ann. (2010). One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
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