Because Saying Thank-You Can Change the World

Sometimes the best way to receive a gift is to give it away.

Because the only things we really have — are the things we hand over.

On a Monday morning in January, I get up and have a glass of clean water and think about a man I met who lives outside a dump.

How could either one of us have known what would happen?

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His name is Saul — “but not the crazy king,” he laughs.

I met him a year and a half ago, September 2010, on my last day in Guatemala with Compassion Bloggers.

Sauls’ a pastor at the Guatemala City dump.

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A Pastor of a community of 120 members.

Only 120 members offering meals and Bible classes twice a week outside the Guatemala city dump to 80 Compassion children.

Children who needed clean water.

Pastor Saul  had sought out a water purification system from Healing Waters which was half paid for by Compassion, while the remaining cost, a loan from Healing Waters.

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And now Pastor Saul’s community of faith sells bottles of water to families living in the dump for only ⅓ of the going price. And out out of that income?

They repay the loan for the purification system, fund building materials for families in shanty town, offer a feeding program to families living in the dump, and serve a weekly community meal at the church for anyone hungry.

We’re standing in the small water purification room when I ask Pastor Saul, “How do you do this? How do you all do this?” How could either one of us know what would happen?

And he tells me in Spanish, his eyes never leaving my face, that he fell into a drug addiction at 13, that all his teen years, he stumbled through drug addiction.

I just shake my head — This man?

Then he got saved. I ask him how.

How did he find God here?

“I passed a billboard and it made me think. Made me start reading my Bible, starting in the book of Proverbs.”

“What did the billboard say?” I need to know — what are the answers in places like dumps?

What do signs say when you need a sign?

“The billboard, it said: “God is love. Now experience it.

His eyes are brimming. I can hardly swallow, this burning lump. God is love — even here. Now experience it — even everywhere.

The water streaming, I can hear it, the water streaming. I am standing right next to the water pump.

Isn’t that what I’ve been counting for years? Counting all the ways God loves?

Hasn’t that been the essence of my counting 1000, endless giftsGod is love: Now experience it.

And hasn’t that always been the answer to every question in life? Not to only know of God’s love, not to only believe in God’s love — but to live in that love.

To experience it, the holy experience of it, to experience life with a God who is living and active and enveloping everything.

And I stood there with Pastor Saul and all the children he was loving and I could hear it in that place:

God is a fountain, a pump that keeps pumping, spilling, filling, the love that transcends the physical, that’s endless, eternal, that satisfies thirsts that have nothing to do with water.

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This love that streams through dumps and wrecked hearts, that cleans our inner filth and percolates right down to our parched depths.

I am wide open. Fill me, fill me.

“So I went to a church service,” The Pastor, he tells me this in earnest, his face inches away. “And I laid out prostrate on the floor, and I gave my life to God. When I stood up, the addiction was gone. I never felt any cravings again.”

I know — Fill me, fill me. Only this craving for God. Do I want to buy beautiful or be beautiful? He is enough and that isn’t a physical experience but a filling in the canyons of the soul.

“Never again the cravings.” He tells me, his hand punctuating the air, “not since that day — August 10th, 1986, 8:30 in the evening.”

Why does he tell us the date? Why does God step out from behind veils and make His face blindingly known?

I can only whisper it, English into Spanish eyes: “August 10th is my birthday.” How could either one of us know what would happen?

The translator murmurs it to the pastor and Pastor Saul, he hears and he breaks and  tears and a smile and a grasping of my hand, a shaking, a liquid laughing, and his other hand touches his chest and this is what he says:

“And that is the day of my rebirth. Us — you and I —-” He moves his hand between us, a hand to express the God between us and I have no words either.

Only the experience of it, in my gut, in my bones, in my veins and this, hearing only this, the breaking of the amniotic waters, the hope gushing clean, the new life murmuring in dreams, curling up small and so large.

And on a hot day in Guatemala City in September 2010, Pastor Saul finds words in the waters, the wet eyes seeking… “I do all this because he who has been loved much… serves much.”

And I looked at this man pouring his life right out because he’d been loved right through. And I longed to do something, us both reborn.

What did I have to give?

Four months later in January 2011, my messy story of experiencing God’s love went out into the world. One Thousand Gifts would go places unexpected, bring a lost man in Iraq to the saving knowledge of Christ, encourage weary missionaries in Bangladesh, hide quiet 26 weeks on the New York Times Best-seller’s list , win an award in Christianity Today’s Books of the Year, and changed lives… ours too.

What did we have to give?

Thanksgiving for God’s love always seeks to become thanks-living — a living and giving of His love.


We made phone calls.

We prayed more.

Five days before this Christmas, 15 months after I’d met Pastor Saul, we sat with a team from Compassion and two pieces of paper on the table.

Pastor Saul had written a prayer on paper. For a piece of land at the dump. To build on that land:

~ a two-story, six room  Educational Center:

~ with a 10 person computer lab

~ an English academy for 20 students at a time

~ a music studio with 2 pianos, 2 guitars and a drum set

~ and a bakery school with an 8-tray oven.

~ and beside the Educational Center to landscape a soccer and basketball sports center, a safe place for children from the dump to come play and hear about the love of Christ.

And nearly a year after that idiosyncratic, odd little book went out into the world, God would use One Thousand Gifts to answer the prayers of Pastor Saul.

This is what God gave all of us — to give.

My heart had shattered at the Guatemala dump and I hadn’t known how to breathe and he who is loved much serves much and we who gives thanks for much, we givesmuch and now the joy of the words on paper can be lived in all of us:

Christian hands never clasp

and He doesn’t give gifts for gain

because a gift can never stop being a gift—

a gift is always meant to be given…. ~ One Thousand Gifts

Nothing could have ever had made us happier than this — than the giving away. Nothing compares to this.

For days, the Farmer and I go around smiling silly.

One Thousand Gifts, a book about thanksgiving now becomes a story of thanks-living.

You — a whole global community giving thanks to God — and giving back to God. Does it get better than this?

It’s the bent stance of thanks to God that bows low to serve the children of God.

And it’s thanksgiving, bowing in thanks for God’s love, that has us bowing to wash the wounds of the world in His love.

This kneeling wherever we are, and murmuring it aloud, just this one word to Him, this is the word that can change everything– us and the whole world: “Thank-you.

Thanksgiving not only changes our lives: here we are in the stance to serve and change the world.

Somewhere in the house this morning, someone’s thirsty.

I can hear the tap water running.

And I can hear this:

How the river of grace flows on and on… and on.



As we give thanks at the 1 year anniversary of One Thousand Gifts being out in the world… just — our thanks. LOOK WHAT YOU BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE HAVE DONE!

Not only have you joined us in giving thanks to God with One Thousand Gifts — but you’ve given back to God and gone back to the Guatemala dump to build this Educational and Recreational Center with Compassion! Thank you!

Lord willing, next January 2013 or thereabouts, Pastor Saul and his community will have the Educational and Recreational Center up and running, and the Farmer and I and all the kids, we will return to the dump and join with them in giving thanks to God. And we’ll share the trip with each of you– what each of you have given — share the stories and photos and praise with each of you.

(Want to see a video of Pastor Saul and where you have become the gift? Click here to see Shaun Groves at Pastor Saul’s Compassion Project in Guatemala.)

Thank you, each of you, for being the gift — thousands of gifts back to the least of these in need of the love of God!

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Will you take The JOY DARE — and Count 1000 Gifts in 2012?

Thank-you is a word that can change you, your world — the whole world! Will you share the joy?

onethousandgifts-januaryportrait{Download to print here}

{P.S.: Some were wondering where/how to chronicle their #1000gifts in 2012? Any way that works best for you:

in a private journal, with the free app, on your blog and join us in linking up here on the blog every Monday, on the free Year of Graces calendar, or on facebook or twitter (#1000gifts). I’ll be sharing thanks to God each day, Lord willing, on my personal facebook page and on the One Thousand Gifts facebook page — the community there is profoundly encouraging. You are more than welcome to join us! And yes, we will post a new Joy Dare Calendar here on the blog, the first of every month, Lord willing — you can use the Joy Dare Calendar for each month — or not at all.

The point is? Just count any 3 gifts a day — to count 1000 gifts in a year. That’s all. Any way that works for you! Just count your blessings!

And yes — we’ll be updating the blog with more information about the draw for the Nikond90 camera for those who complete the dare and count 1000 gifts in 2012! Open our eyes, Lord, Open our eyes! The Whole Earth is fully of Your Glory! }


Free Printables : 3 Ways to Find Joy this week

1. A Year of Graces {A Free 12 Month Gratitude Calendar} Click to print here
Picnik collagePicnik collage


2. Count all His Gifts Wherever You Are: {One Thousand Gifts Free App}:

Click here for the free #1000gifts app : The gift of joy for a friend? Print this card about the free app for a friend Picnik collage

3. 1 Paper = 1 Week of Joy
Tuck 1 sheet of paper in a pocket & jot down 7 gifts for 7 days:
(perfect booklet to cultivate the habit of the joy hunt for kids)

(folding instructions for booklet here)

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Will you join us? And happily change everything by keeping your own crazy list of One Thousand Gifts?

Please, jump in, make your life about giving thanks to God! — Just add the direct URL to your specific 1000 gift list post… and if you join us, we humbly ask that you please help us find each other in our refrain of thanks by sharing the community’s graphic within your post.

Give thanks to the Lord! His Love Endures Forever!