No one word has more radically changed my life — or saved me from ending my life — than that one word, and that rarely happens over the whole of a lifetime.
True, it was a word that once was all Greek to me, but it became the word that came before all the miracles.
And it’s the one word that unfurls Holy Week for me — and not just Holy Week, but all the days and weeks of our lives, making even the hardest things into holy grace.
“And on the night He was BETRAYED…
Jesus He broke bread & lifted it up & GAVE THANKS.’” 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
“Without exception … all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is, joy.”Augustine
“In the original language, “he gave thanks” reads “eucharisteo.”
The root word of eucharisteo is “charis”, meaning grace. Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks.
But there is more: Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, “charis.” But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word “chara,” meaning joy. Joy.
That might be what the quest for more is all about—that which Augustine claimed, “Without exception … all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is, joy.”
I breathe deep, like a sojourner finally coming home.” ~One Thousand Gifts
On the night Jesus was betrayed — He gave thanks.
“If Jesus chooses to Practice Thanksgiving in the face of incomprehensible dark — why do we think there is any other better weapon against the dark?”
On the night when the prodigal sliced open your heart, on the night when you lost your job, when your person slammed out the door, and the toilet stopped flushing, and the dog gagged and puked all over the back mat, on the night when it looked like the dawn would never come again — there is always a choice, and why not choose what Jesus did?
Because when Jesus had to fight through dark, staring right into the most impossible situation of the Cross — what does He do?
Out of a universe of supernatural options at the tip of His fingers — what does Jesus do?
On the night when Jesus was betrayed — He gave thanks.
If Jesus chooses to Practice Thanksgiving in the face of incomprehensible dark — why do we think there is any other better weapon against the dark?
“If you want a strong and resilient joyfulness, you have to practice thankfulness precisely when it’s hard.”
If Jesus believes that the Practice of Thanksgiving is the right response when He is about to be punished for every unimaginable evil that the world has or ever will ever know — how can we imagine that somehow thanksgiving isn’t the right response for whatever dark we’ve ever known?
If Jesus chooses to give thanks before He carries His Cross — why do we think we don’t have to practice gratitude and yet we can still carry ours?
If you want a strong and resilient joyfulness, you have to practice thankfulness precisely when it’s hard.
When you turn and open your eyes to see gifts in the hard, it’s your mind that grows more open and flexible, and it’s looking for the brilliance of God in the dark that grows you in resilience for tomorrow’s hard times.
“Giving thanks is what gives us strength to carry our crosses.”
What good you choose to pay attention to today, is the good your mind will remember tomorrow, which is the good that your mind will be trained to be looking for next week.
Paying attention to grace today pays your soul dividends tomorrow.
It’s been a long decade since first writing down one thousand gifts and all these daily gratitude lists: We’ve stood under the white lights of ER to find our one child’s pancreas was dead and we’ve had to become a manual organ day and night to keep our diabetic kid alive.
“Joy is simply a long thankfulness in the direction of God.”
We drove another child to the city hospital to have a thyroid radiated and embark on the daily and relentless calibration of meds to be a manual thyroid for life.
Another child’s chest has been sawed open twice for heart surgery and we keep giving blood thinners and beta blockers daily, and keep our cardiologist appointments to monitor when this palliative half-a-heart will start to fail, and we never stop begging God to give a long life.
I’ve fallen hard and smashed holy things I didn’t know how to put back together.
I’ve driven Mama to biopsies. We’ve stood at gravesides and watched caskets bearing bodies of people we desperately love lowering down into the cold earth. I’ve gotten phone calls that were my literal worst nightmares — and there is no waking up.
I’ve fought self-hatred and failure and the ache to self-harm. But I’m still standing at the end of this decade to testify: Joy is simply a long thankfulness in the direction of God.
Giving thanks isn’t for the pushover pollyannas — giving thanks is for the pillars of strength who have trained their souls to see that God is always a pillar of fire ahead of them, making a way of grace.
I meet a woman named Lisa and she shows me a photo of her seven gratitude journals where she writes more than 1000 gifts a year and she’s throwing a party when she writes more than 10,000 and the art of eucharisteo, the practice of giving thanks, has given her the richest life of joy, even in the life she has, right where she is.
I keep track through the years of a young football-loving Texan named Nick who read One Thousand Gifts one long decade ago now, and he tells me that every single year since, he leads the College Group of boys he disciples through the daily practice of gratitude, sharing how eucharisteo revolutionized his life.
College guys text their gift lists to each other each night. And Nick texts me how young 20-something guys fight through grief and loss with a pen in their hand, writing down gifts, year after year, after year, young guys who have lost family through the COVID pandemic writing: “Seeing that making those lists over the past four years has always centered my heart back on the presence of God.”
This is realest reality:
Gratitude says the goodness of God is greater than grief of this world. This may be a world of trouble, but this is a world that has been overcome by the goodness of God. Keep looking for the good around us, and we see God’s keeping company here with us.
And if God and His goodness is still here with us, how can we not still give thanks?
“Gratitude is a state of mind — that changes the state of your life because it changes how you see your life.”
Gratitude is a state of mind — that changes the state of your life because it changes how you see your life.
Practicing thankfulness is a perspective workout — training your eyes to see how God is working out all things together for God. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (MT 6:23)
Gratitude is a reframe — so we stop framing God, and start framing our lives as a masterpiece of grace by God.
Even now, I dare to believe.
It is no small thing in hard times, and on the hardest days of our lives, that we will all one day face:
Individuals who practice the habit of thankfulness are proven to have better emotional coping skills. Because thankfulness is a state of mind that opens your mind to all kinds of possibility, potential and perspective. “The idea is that our minds actually work better when we are grateful — allowing us to be more creative, more optimistic, and more capable in our endeavors,” writes clinical psychologist, Dr. Lillian Nejad .
Which is to say: Your brain on thankfulness leads to the full life.
“Doxology or dark — the choice is always ours.”
Your heart on gratitude leads to God. Where else do you want to go?
Doxology or dark — the choice is always ours.
It’s the 10th anniversary since our little book about eucharisteo flew out into the world and landed like hope on a feather into the hands of more than a million and half gratitude warriors, and then winged further around the world into more than 20 languages and revolutionized countless little worlds, mine chief.
Because on the days when the dark had me in a chokehold and kids and marriages and hope was crashing and burning, I didn’t just grab a pen and write down the easy things as gifts — I purposefully wrote down the very hardest things, one after another, and intentionally counted the very hardest things I was facing as good gifts because unless you count the hard things as good gifts you’ve miscounted.
Gratitude isn’t some optional, in vogue notion; it’s an actual unstoppable weapon in Christ. The daily Practice of Gratitude is for the warriors who are committed to seriously wielding a weapon against the dark, to slaying all the dark.
“There is no invitation more urgent than that of returning thanks — because this is what turns all our dark around. Because it turns everything around to face God.”
Because: The one thing the dark can’t ever hold a candle to, is a heart kindled with thanks to God for being a good God.
There is never anything to fear. Thankfulness is the sleek feathered arrow that strikes at the dark heart of doubt. This is the weapon that never runs out. This is our Father’s world and there is always evermore to be thankful for.
“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks,” wrote Ambrose of Milan.
There is no invitation more urgent than that of returning thanks — because this is what turns all our dark around. Because it turns everything around to face God.
Jesus will break the bread this week. He will face hell on earth, look the devil squarely in the eye and defy him with His thanks for the goodness of God.
And it will happen: Thanksgiving will precede the miracle, and that old impossible stone will turn and roll, and the awed revolution will happen and the whole of creation and us will rise, and how can anything rise from our lips in the face of all this grace, but that one word that begins every resurrection, every new life:
Thanks be to God.