Photo Credit: © 2006 Lynne Holder

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Path to Gratitude

Eucharisteo: to be grateful; give thanks

The root word of eucharisteo in Greek is charis, meaning gift or grace. Charis is also the root of the Greek word chara, meaning joy.

 I wish eucharisteo was my default setting. Alas, it is not. Instead, I have to hunt, look for...and see...grace all around me. Historically, my default setting has been fear (darn that human nature). That's why I adopted this Greek word for thanksgiving and made it my mantra for this year, my restoration year.

One Thousand Gifts is a book full of jewels. In the companion devotional I turn page after page, draining the pen dry of ink for all my underlining. There are 60 devotions, each named for a type of grace--anti-anxiety grace, trusting grace, urgent grace, hard grace, joyous grace, comforting grace, to name a few--because all is grace, the author reminds me. 

All? The losses, lamenting, struggling? I say, along with David, "How long, Lord?" (Psalm 13:1). How long before there is no more suffering?

Ann Voskamp tells the heart-breaking story of the deaths of her 2 nephews, 18 months apart, from the same genetic disease. She tells her brother-in-law, "If it were up to me I'd write this story differently." Who wouldn't want to? Ask Candi Pearson-Shelton if she didn't want her brother healed. People known and unknown to her prayed fervently for his healing. For both of these families, the bottom line is, surrender to the Author of these stories.

Ann's brother-in-law, tears in his eyes, told her, "...maybe you don't want to change the story, because you don't know what a different ending holds." 

Candi brings to light the paradox of faith in God when she relates how her surrender "melts into peace and serenity, and...wholeness. Wow. Brokenness bringing about wholeness?"

Surrender isn't meant to mean a "Whatever, I give up!" resignation. I know that first-hand. It was my attitude following my mother's death in 1982 and the premature labor and delivery of my twins in 1983. This excerpt on surrender, from God Calling, helps me understand and re-frame my view:

Resignation to My Will keeps Me barred out from more hearts than does unbelief. Can anything be such a crime against Love as being resigned? My Will should be welcomed with a glad wonder if I am to do My Work in the heart and life. In all true discipleship, and in the true spiritual development of each disciple, there is first the wonder and the joy of first acquaintance, then comes the long plain stretch of lesson-learning and discipline. But the constant experience of Me, the constant persistent recognition of My Work in daily happenings, the numberless instances in which seeming chance or wonderful coincidence can be, must be, traced back to My loving forethought--all these gradually engender a feeling of wonder, certainty, gratitude, followed in time by Joy.

Read Candi's book because I'm not going to give away the ending. You will see God's loving forethought and you will close it with a sense of wonder, certainty, and gratitude.

Devotion 33 of One Thousand Gifts begins by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, which talks about the Israelites wandering the desert.

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, 
which neither you nor your ancestors had known, 
to teach you that man does not live on bread alone 
but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Manna. The name literally means, "What is it?" Ann writes, "More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they don't comprehend. They find soul-filling in the inexplicable.They eat the mystery. They eat the mystery. And the mystery, that which made no sense, is 'like wafers of honey' on the lips. ...all the mysteries I have refused, refused, to let nourish me...I wonder too...if the rent in the canvas of our life's backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see. To see through to God."

Now I'm beginning to see the purpose of this humbling journey Leland and I have traveled the last few years. Turning to God's word, seeing grace woven throughout the discipline, letting Him slowly chip away at all the layers of concrete I had slapped over my heart, this strange manna nourishing me. In this process, I learn to give thanks for my thousands of gifts and I pray for joy in the midst of trouble; when life has exhausted me.

"...followed in time by Joy."

I wonder if the prosperity and healing peddlers have ever taken their blinders off to stop and ask what the motivation is behind their demanding health and wealth, ease and comfort. Yes, God can absolutely do anything and everything, but is it for your own glory, or God's? Do you know what story He wants to write? Do you wonder what God's ending holds? Would you eat the "what is it" and wonder in His work in your life? My hunch is, you'd rather control.

In closing, I want to relate a recent encounter with Candi and her husband, Jonathan. I dropped by their house to pick up a copy of Desperate Hope, which Candi had graciously given me. Jonathan and I chatted briefly while Candi was busy in the kitchen. We shared specific needs to pray for, and when he asked me what mine was, the first thought that came to me was relief from this financial roller coaster. I said my goodbyes and as soon as I got in the car, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Haven't I learned yet? Relief is not the answer. I wanted to run back in and tell Jonathan, No, that was wrong! I take it back! You want to know my greatest need? I need to surrender, not resign, to the Author of my story. I need contentment in every situation that stems from love for and trust in God. I need to count it all eucharisteo.

Grace. Thanksgiving. Joy. THIS is abundant life!

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