Tuesday, November 26, 2013

An Evening of Gratitude

The ladies in the church we attend usually have a get-together in the fall to regroup after the summer vacations and travels, and, as a group, to refocus on the One thing needful.

This year we gathered a little later than usual, but it was still a nice time.  I talked with some friends for help and ideas (and yummy treats!), and working out the plan of the evening.  I use the word "plan" loosely, as I tend to be less detail oriented and more "go with the flow" and see how people respond and interact.

I thought about the room we would meet in, and the feeling I would like to convey as the women arrive.  I was hoping for warm and inviting...like a living room in a home, rather than a meeting room.
 As I continued to form ideas for the decorating, I also considered what I would share.  Originally I was hoping to have everyone contribute, discuss, share.  But talking with someone more experienced in these events, she suggested I share some thoughts, so I began thinking...

I put together some little booklets as take-homes, as journals, as places to document signs of gratitude. 
 
I sketched and cut out paper leaves, plain and ready to receive words of thanks, then printed out Ann Voskamp's leaves, holding verses, reminders of God's words, reminders to give thanks...  
  
All the time thinking, asking, what is it that needs to be said?  How do I limit the thoughts that run through when we consider thanks-giving, and eucharisteo?

We began the evening with a time of fellowship.  As my girls and I were still getting things ready, those who came in quickly stepped in to offer help, getting plates for cookies, arranging the table, making the coffee.
How beautiful community is when help is offered in kindness, and shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart we work together for a common goal.
 
Here is what I came to share during the evening:

"As we stand on the threshold of another holiday season, there are quite a few conversations around being grateful, giving thanks, planning your gift shopping, and on and on.  For many of us this can be a season of stress, rushing, spending, trying to please, baking, cooking….and all of this on top of the regular daily tasks we have piled up.  For others it can be a melancholy time of remembering seasons past, of family that is far away, or a general sense of the onset of winter and a season of cold and blustery weather—and sometimes emotions.
Tonight, we are going to focus on gratitude, eucharisteo, and the many gifts we have been given.
My friend Beth was telling me about the pilgrims’ use of five kernels of corn to remind them of blessings. I’m going to tweak that a little bit.  The pilgrims used corn to remind them of the winter they spent fighting for survival, and the provision of God. 
1.       God loves us
2.       God provides for our needs
3.       God gives us friends
4.       God gives us people who love us
5.       God hears our prayers and answers us.
Instead of kernels of corn… How many fingers do you have on each hand?  Five.  How do we begin counting when we are young?  Many times, we count our to-dos using our fingers.  Ask any toddler how old they are, and they will hold up any number of fingers to count their years.  If we want to draw someone’s attention to something across the room, or street, what do we do?  We point, saying “look, do you see that?”
Now, I’m asking you to look at your hands, but be careful if you have a hot drink in them!!
Point out the things you have to count as blessings, as gifts, as grace.
Open your hands to receive the gifts.
Raise your hands in worship to your heavenly Father, in thanksgiving, gratitude, eucharisteo.
James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. If our heavenly Father is good, would everything He allows be for our good?  Even the difficult circumstances we might go through?  And should we be grateful for it?  Not a begrudging thank you, but a heart willing to acknowledge that His gift to us, through Jesus His Son, if forgiveness, mercy and grace.  That He knows our hearts, our days, our moments and He is with us and He loves us, and works everything for His purpose.  Corrie Ten Boom – “Every experience God give us, every person He puts in our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”
My friend Anne Marie shared her thoughts on  – Colossians 3:15-17 “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Eucharisteo- Some of you may have heard of Ann Voskamp.  There is a study based on a book she wrote, “One Thousand Gifts.”  In this study, she uses the word eucharisteo, and when asked what that means, she explains:
“Yes, it’s all Greek to me, but this is the word that can change everything: eucharisteo-it comes right out of the Gospel of Luke.”And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them…”  (Luke 22:19 NIV) 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.  Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis.  But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Charis, Grace, Eucharisteo, Thanksgiving, Chara, Joy.
Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo, the table of thanksgiving.  The holy grail of joy.  God set it in the very center of Christianity.  The Eucharist is the central symbol of Christianity.  (Doesn’t the continual repetition of beginning our week at the table of the Eucharist clearly place the whole of our live into the context of thankgiving?)
One of Christ’s very last directives He offers to His desciples is to take the bread, the wine, and to remember.  Do this in remembrance of Me.  Remember and give thanks.
This is the crux of Christianity: to remember and give thanks, eucharisteo.
Because remember with thanks is what causs us to trust; to really believe.  Re-membering, giving thanks, is what makes us a member again of the body of Christ.  Re-memebering, giving thanks is what puts us back together again in this hurried, broken fragmented world.”  -Ann Voskamp
 I shared how growing up, whenever we had a meal at my grandparent's house, whether sandwiches, pancakes or Thanksgiving dinner, we prefaced every meal with this:  "Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed, Amen.  O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good and His mercy endures forever."  As a child, I knew the words, I said the words, and I probably even understood - to a degree - what was being said.  But as I look at those words now, this statement of acknowledging that we are given so many gifts, and we are to be thankful for them. That God shares His love with us, and blesses us and showers us with grace.

We shared in a time of communion, the Lord's table, the Eucharist.  Invited to remember Jesus' words, His actions, and His love for us.  To receive His grace, His joy, and give thanks.


Then, the Doxology:
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures, here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost
Amen"
Everyone then selected a leaf and a journal and were encouraged to read the Scripture, to consider the gift, to start that night with the first step in the habit of gratitude, noting one thing before they left.  One thing for which they could give thanks.

I didn't get a photo of the entire room, but we sat in a circle with small side or coffee tables to hold plates or cups as needed.  We had blankets draped across the backs of some of the chairs, to make it cozy, home-y and encourage a relaxing time with friends.  The lights were lower, with several strands of small white lights formed into (what should look like) a tree, beneath which, the Eucharist was placed. 

And just as it began, the evening ended with friends jumping in to wash dishes, pack up and share desserts and cookies that were left over, re-pack the trunk of my car with the trappings, and arrange the tables and chairs for the next morning's Sunday School class. 

Again a wonderful display of community - communion - and I express my thanks for their grace, their love, their help.

Eucharisteo

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