The first thousand thanks

During this past week I noted my thousandth prayer of gratitude to Jesus for all He gives me. What I’ve learned in the 22 months since I first began recording gifts goes way beyond any pop psychology feel good factor. In fact, for much of this time I’ve not felt good at all and counting blessings hasn’t changed that at an emotional level.

The primary lesson has been a realization of how vast the eucharist is. As Ann points out, the Greek word for giving thanks is eucharisteo, and our sacrament of holy communion derives it’s traditional name from the same word:

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.”
(Luke 22:19 ESV)

Jesus has given Himself that we may have life. The sacrament of communion was instituted to cause us to remember this in thanksgiving and praise. I am learning how vast God’s giving is, and how unending and appropriate is my continual thanksgiving and praise in response. Counting gifts is a useful reminder to look for God’s provision in all of life.

In walking with Christ, straining to see properly, a common theme is my need for constant reinforcement of what He has already taught me. If I could only live what He has already taught me I would be unrecognisably stronger in faith. It is comforting to know others also experience this:

The one who lives his life in circles, discovering, entering into, forgetting and losing, finding his way round again, living his life in layers – deeper, round, further in.
(Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p105 Slightly modified)

The one thousandth gift:

  • Kowhai flower budNew flower buds on the kowhai tree {1,000}

Looking over my list, there are some common themes in what I have counted:

  • My wife
  • My children (and their antics)
  • Increasing knowledge of God
  • Creature comforts
  • Financial stuff
  • Quietness, peace
  • The natural world God has made
  • The creativeness of people
  • Enjoying the company of family and friends
  • Benefits of being born in this place and this time

It could be argued that there is a lot of selfishness in what I am thankful for, this is true but these are the sort of things I noticed as gifts from God. Perhaps as I grow and mature the themes may change, wait until I reach 2,000!

Related to this topic:

My cheerful winter friends

As a lily among brambles,
so is my love among the young women.
(Song of Solomon 2:2 ESV)

Near the entrance to the building in which I work is a patch of irises. I particularly like these irises because they flower during the winter, adding a splash of cheerfulness on gloomy days as I head to work.

I’m no gardening expert, but to the best of my knowledge these plants would normally flower in spring or summer, but for at least 12 years that I know of this clump of greenery has flowered right in the coldest part of winter. I feel like they have been my little cheerful friends for many years now, even when I have worked in other parts of campus these flowers boldly send a message of beauty and hope during the dreariest part of each year.

Somehow these small, fragile living things displaying their beauty does more to lift my heart than all my own efforts to do so. As I near the one thousand mark on my eucharisteo list I notice that many times I have given thanks for the fresh air, sunlight, plants, birds, insects, hills, and water that is given by God to all of us to partake of.

These flowers remind me of God’s extravagant love. His love in placing reminders of Him and His creative power in my path. His extravagance in that even though flowers wither within days and may not be seen by many, it is God’s pleasure to make them. Within the thorny brambles of life in a sin-wrecked world God creates stunning beauty for everyone if they will look for it.

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
(Luke 12:27-28 ESV)

Gifts I have noticed recently:

  • Frost crystals on a sunlit rock {973}
  • Irises blazing midwinter colour {976}
  • Dozing in the sunshine {978}
  • Being less then 1 metre from an adult fur seal {980}
  • Enormous ice creams {983}
  • Very silly, giggly girls at bedtime {990}
  • Three-year-old son ‘reading’ the dictionary {995}
  • A quiet cup of tea with my wife after she finished work {997}

Change is possible

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

It is good to reflect upon what I have to be thankful for in Christ. This is where the very essence of all I have in life comes from and is the only unchanging thing in my life. As I travel along the convoluted path from cradle to grave everything will change, yet we like to convince ourselves that all we work and strive for will last and have ongoing significance.

No, we are like a vapour which blows away in the morning sun, a flower which blooms for only a few short days. The body I was born with has grown and changed dramatically, unfortunately it will continue to do so – by this stage of my life the change is generally degenerative! My mind and emotions have similarly grown and changed, there is no good reason to expect these to remain static either.

Yet some things remain stubbornly resistant to change; my sinfulness abides through all the ups and downs of life. If anything it becomes more problematic the longer I live. This is the very problem that Jesus has solved. In Christ I have redemption and sin is cancelled. The inclination to sin remains powerful but it’s ultimate power over me is broken. Now I have a choice, there is the option to live for God in Christ.

A thousand thousand reasons to live

Last Monday afternoon our little family made the most of all having the day off together on a glorious sunny day and went for a picnic. We have all been hanging out for such times together, this is our favourite way to unwind and relax as a family. The kids loved it, the dogs loved it, and the parents loved it. My heart rejoiced, God is good to me.

Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me … (Isaiah 8:18 ESV)

All week I have mulled over what to write with our picnic in mind. Nothing has quite ‘clicked’ so this post has sat simmering in the recesses of my mind. So I’m simply going to leave you with a quote from a novel I read recently:

There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.
(Marilynne Robinson, Gilead p227)

Gifts I have noticed recently (#943 – #953):

943) My wife turning our partly renovated cottage into a cosy home.
944) Putting a ‘Thomas’ puzzle back together for a wee boy who is sad at brokenness.
945) Our Queen remaining honourable for 60 years.
946) Family picnic on a glorious sunny winter afternoon.
947) A handful of wild flowers from mum.
948) Wild passionfruit.
949) Squeaky swings.
950) My new reading glasses.
951) John Kirwin being knighted.
952) A frown from my wife reminding me I am being lazy.
953) Warming frozen fingers by the fire.