A Thousand Gifts …
I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I’ve seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. 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. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks.
This thanks for the minute, this is to say the prayer of the most blessed of women about to participate in one of the most transformative events the world has ever known. Mary, with embryonic God Himself filling her womb, exalts in quiet ways: “My soul doth magnify the Lord” (Luke 1:46 KJV).
So might I; yes and even here.
Something always comes to fill the empty places. And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me. This, this, makes me full, and I “magnify him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30 KJV), and God enters the world. What will a life magnify? The world’s stress cracks, the grubbiness of a day, all that is wholly wrong and terribly busted? Or God? Never is God’s omnipotence and omniscience diminutive. God is not in need of magnifying by us so small, but in reverse. It’s our lives that are little and we have falsely inflated self, and in thanks we decrease and the world returns right. I say thanks and I swell with Him, and I swell the world and He stirs me, joy all afoot.
This, I think, this is the other side of prayer.
This act of naming grace moments, this list of God’s gifts, moves beyond the shopping list variety of prayer and into the other side. The other side of prayer, the interior of His throne room, the inner walls of His powerful, love-beating heart. The list is God’s list, the pulse of His love – the love that thrums on the other side of our prayers. And I see it now for what this really is, this dare to write down one thousand things I love. It really is a dare to name all the ways that God loves me. The true Love Dare. To move into His presence and listen to His love unending and know the grace uncontainable. This is the vault of the miracles. The only thing that can change us, the world, is this – all His love.
I am the bell and He is the sure wind, and He moves and I am rung and I know it for what it is: this is the other side where Daniel, man of prayer, lived. Change agent, mover and shaker Daniel, second to king Daniel. Daniel is a man of power prayer, not because he bends the stiff knees and makes petitions of the High throne three times daily. Rather, his prayers move kings and lion jaws because Daniel “prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to God.” (Daniel 6:10). Three times a day, Daniel prayed thanksgiving for the everyday common, for the God–love spilling forth from the God-heart at the center of it all. The only real prayers are the ones mouthed with thankful lips. Because gratitude ushers into the other side of prayer, into the heart of the God-love, and all power to change the world, me, resides here in His love. Prayer, to be prayer, to have any power to change anything, must first speak thanks: “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6 NIV). “First, I tell you to pray for all people, asking God for what they need and being thankful to him” (1Timothy 2:1 NCV). Prayer without ceasing is only possible in a life of continual thanks. How did I ever think there way another way to enter into His courts but with thanksgiving?
Julian of Norwich stated: The highest form of prayer is to the goodness of God … God only desires that our soul cling to him with all of its strength, in particular, that it clings 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 profit to our soul.
The gift list is thinking upon His goodness – and this, this pleases Him most! And most profits my own soul and I am beginning, only beginning, to know it. If clinging to His goodness is the highest form of prayer, then this seeing His goodness with a pen, with a shutter, with a word of thanks, these really are the most sacred acts conceivable. The ones anyone can conceive, anywhere, in the midst of anything. Eucaristeo takes us into His love. I am struck and I long chime: Daniel is only a man of prayer because he is a man of thanks, and the only way to be a woman of prayer is to be a woman of thanks. And not sporadic, general thanks, but three times a day eucharisteo. Was it the power of everyday thanksgiving prayer that shut the gaping mouths of the lions ravenous? Lions would count as hard eucharisteo.
Life change comes when we receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change.
Written by Ann Voskamp (from her book, A Thousand Gifts)