For a little over a year I have been on a personal journey. I’ve realized this is the only real goal I want to carry forward in my life. Not because I don’t want to accomplish other things or better myself but because this one thing has the power and capacity to be the catalyst for everything else. I have already seen it beginning to change me. It feels good!
And I want more.
Giving thanks, thanksgiving, eucharisteo.
Eucharisteo has power when we fully live it. It is a Greek word meaning thanksgiving. Digging further into its etymology one gains even greater insight.
Ann Voskamp writes, in One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are “Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning joy.” Joy. Ah…yes. I might be needing me some of that. 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.”
Could it be that the quest to find joy, true joy, is as simple as giving thanks for His grace? Yes!
Gratitude is not just a commandment from the Lord. “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.” (D&C 59:7) It is a commandment with a promise, “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.” (D&C 78:19)
With a promise like that why is it so hard for us to show gratitude? Gratitude takes work and effort. We not only have to feel it, we have to express it, for everything in our lives. Sister Bonnie D. Parkin taught, “Mercies and blessings come in different forms–sometimes as hard things. Yet the Lord said, ‘Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things’ (D&C 59:7). All things means just that: good things, difficult things–not just some things. He has commanded us to be grateful because He knows being grateful will make us happy.”
Ingratitude, according to President Joseph F. Smith, is “one of the greatest sins of which the inhabitants of the earth are guilty today.” I believe it is one of the greatest sins because it is the one we most often commit. We are ungrateful. We fail to see and acknowledge the blessings that are abundant in our everyday lives.
“If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.” This observation was shared by President Monson a few years ago. Gratitude is definitely a virtue that is becoming lost in our world of ‘gimme, gimme’ or ‘I deserve this’ or ‘Woe is me.’ Pres. Monson continues,
Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend . . . when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.
We will always lack something. If we choose to focus on what we do not have we make ourselves miserable. We get caught up in the “if only’s” – if only I had this, if only I could do that – I would be happy.
One of my favorite scriptures of all time is a simple little one not often quoted. Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned in whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content.” We will always have something to be grateful for in whatever stage of life we are in. We just need to look for it.
A couple of years ago I began keeping a gratitude journal, numbering the daily gifts from God. This has changed my life. I am living eucharisteo. President Henry B. Eyring has been keeping a gratitude journal for years. He would write a few lines every single night after asking himself, “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?”
This one question, “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” is powerful. The answers are even more so. Why?
To name a thing is to manifest the meaning and value God gave to it. (Alexander Schmemann)
When we name our blessings we are showing God we value what He values. And we notice that what He values most is us.
Naming the blessings helps us see ourselves and those around us as God sees us. Giving thanks, counting my blessings, has changed my perspective, my focus. I no longer look inward. My eyes are drawn outward, upward to God. In that drawing I am able to see the needs of others around me. In my limited realm of experience I have learned that in giving thanks I want to give. How can I not when I see how much I have truly been blessed? “Because I have been given much I too must give.” It is a natural God-intended consequence.
Giving thanks, thanksgiving, eucharisteo.
It is changing my life. I am finding joy.
Repost from last November.
Get your own Thanks & Giving lists (2nd picture in this post) for teens and adults to use throughout the month or print out the Thanks & Giving Trees for children. Visit this page for 8 Thankful Activity suggestions.
This post is a part of the Grateful Hearts, Giving Hands series.