It is nearly Thanksgiving Day as I write this. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Growing up, it was one day to give thanks, spend time with family, and enjoy a bountiful supply of scrumptious, homemade food. But all that has changed for me. Now Thanksgiving has become a daily celebration of an endless supply of trivial things that add up to a full life.

For me, this thankful life began ten years ago when I first read Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. Currently, more than 1.5 million copies have sold, and Ann no longer lives in obscurity as the wife of a Canadian farmer and mother of six children. She has dared us to live fully right where we are, to find joy in a thousand small wonders, and wonder in the presence of a big, joyful God.

Lives are being transformed throughout the world as people choose to give thanks. As Ann says, “Eucharisteo always precedes the miracle.” Eucharisteo, the Greek word meaning thanksgiving with chara, which is Greek for joy. Let us give thanks with joy! Here are a few more things I’ve learned from Ann.

Thankfulness is not based on fleeting feelings but on a choice.

To begin with, let us not equate thankfulness with a wave of emotion but a posture of life. Thankfulness is a way of being – a way of seeing. Research shows that we become like what we look at. Thankfulness opens our eyes to see how the grace of God is saving our lives. But this new way of being and seeing doesn’t happen overnight. First, we must grapple with the issues that plague us.

With questions such as:

  • “Where is God, really?”
  • “How can He be good when babies die, and marriages implode, and dreams blow away like dust in the wind?”
  • “Where is grace when cancer devastates, loneliness invades, and nameless places in us break off and die?”
  • “How do we fully live when life is full of hurt?
  • “How do we wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullness of life in the rubbish heap of loss and grief and emptiness?”

It begins when we accept the invitation. “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28). “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. The clouds open when we mouth thanks.” (Voskamp)

Something always comes to fill the empty places.

And when I choose to give thanks, I make a place for God to grow within me. I “magnify Him with thanksgiving” (Ps. 69:30) What will a life magnify? The hardship that stresses and cracks us, the dirt and grime of a day, all that is ruptured and fragmented? Or God? “God is not in need of magnifying by us so small, but the reverse. It’s our lives that are little and we have falsely inflated self, and in thanks, we decrease and the world returns right,” (Voskamp)

Thanksgiving is the prayer that changes everything

Do you remember the Old Testament story of Daniel? He was a man of prayer. Daniel’s prayers were powerful not because he knelt before the High Throne of God three times each day, but rather, his prayers moved the hearts of kings and shut the jaws of lions because Daniel “prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” (Daniel 6:10). Three times a day, Daniel prayed thanksgiving for the everyday ordinary.

The only prayers that are real are the ones mouthed with genuinely thankful lips. Prayer that changes anything must first speak thanks: “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). “First, I tell you to pray for all people, asking God for what they need and being thankful to Him” (1 Tim 2:1)

Thanksgiving takes us into the love and goodness of God

We enter into His Presence with thanksgiving – Ps. 100:4

The highest form of prayer is aimed toward the goodness of God. God only desires that we cling to Him with all our soul and, in particular, that we cling to His goodness. For of all the things our minds can think about God, it is thinking upon His goodness that pleases Him most and brings the most benefit to our soul.

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, o my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all my iniquities; who heals all my diseases; who redeems my life from destruction; who crowns me with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfies my mouth with good things; so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.Ps. 103:1-5

Throughout the ages, we have heard the serpent’s hissing lie, the repeating refrain that seeps into our minds: “God isn’t good.” It’s the cornerstone of the enemy’s movement. That God withholds good from His children, that God does not genuinely, fully, love us. The seeping venom of doubt, mistrust, discontent.

“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,” (Voskamp).

We are lured by the deception that there is more to a full life, there is more to see. And true, there was more for Adam and Eve to see in the garden when they tasted the forbidden fruit; their eyes were then opened to the ugliness they had never beheld, the sinfulness they had never witnessed, the loss they had not known. No longer could they see God as Someone they could trust or perceive Him as Someone Who is wholly good. No longer would they see the remaining paradise.

Contentment is freedom from worry or restlessness and brings peaceful satisfaction

People are chronically plagued by “contentment deficit disorder,” which chokes the growth and development of a godly life. Instead of being allured by the desire for other things, ask yourself what matters most. As you keep receiving the Word of God into your spirit and letting it guide and direct your life, it will help you walk in God’s peace and contentment.

…the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.Mark 4:19

From Scarcity to Fullness: Time asks us to do the hardest of all ~ just open wide and receive

We find God in our every day, present moments. This is where He is. He is our “present help” (Ps. 46:1). He is called, Immanuel, meaning “God with us,” And I AM, (Exodus 3:14).

God is timeless. I only live the fullness of life when I live fully in the moment.

In the Gospel of Matthew, we are told the story of 5,000 people being fed with only five loaves of bread and two fish. “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted,” (John 6:11).

What appeared to be too few loaves and not enough fish. “Gave thanks” became the crossing over that took the not enough and made it more than enough. The people were moved from a fear of scarcity to an assurance of fullness. Giving thanks always precedes the miracle.

Give thanks, slowdown, and your basket of not enough multiplies into more than enough.

The real problem of life is never a lack of time or any other needed resource. The real problem is the lack of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving creates abundance, and the miracle of multiplying happens when I give thanks. Take the just one loaf, say it is enough, and give thanks – and He miraculously makes it more than enough. “I AM, come multiply my little time into enough time, my little heart into a big heart and the glory of living fully now.”

“Wherever you are, be all there” is only possible in the posture of giving thanks. I want to slow down and taste life, give thanks, and see God,” (Voskamp)

Don’t I always have the choice to be fully attentive?
Living a thank-full life doesn’t just happen . . . It takes practice
The Apostle Paul sent a letter to the Philippians. Paul repeats himself twice in only two sentences so that they, so that we, will not miss it. He is sharing a secret. He is holding out a golden nugget treasure that we can pocket and carry with us. Listen to his words:

I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.Philippians 4:11-12

This is the secret to living joyfully in every situation. We learn to give thanks. We practice until it becomes a part of who we are…our faith’s muscle memory. It inspires the way we see and the way we engage with life.

This is gratitude amid the ugliness of death, divorce, and debt as well as in the moments when life is comforting and beautiful. To learn to be grateful and happy, whether our hands are full or empty, waiting to be filled. We practice giving thanks in the waiting because thanksgiving always precedes the miracle.

The invitation

Jesus is still extending the invitation. He stands at the door and knocks, He calls us to follow, to “come and see.” He promises that when we draw near to Him, He will not turn away but rather, He will draw near to us in return.

If you are willing to accept His invitation but feel that you’re not sure how to begin or how to pray, please reach out to a counselor with Seattle Christian Counseling. We are honored to walk beside you, meet you right where you are, and take the steps that lead into the fullness of life God has prepared for you.

Photos:
“Red Hair Under Blue Umbrella”, Courtesy of Andreas Oniscov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Green Leaves”, Courtesy of Marc Zimmer, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reading”, Courtesy of Tim Mossholder, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Basket of Apples”, Courtesy of Olesia Buyar, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

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