Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sully Notes 18 | One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are Part 1 of 3

Emmaus City Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities Sully Notes 17

Sully Notes 18: Books in 25 minutes or less

Sully Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. 

Here are links to the previous Sully Notes books:

3DM Missional Community Trilogy Sully Notes
Special Sully Notes

Say it with me now. "It's about time." My wife has been recommending that I read this book for too long. I've gained so much from Ann Voskamp's blog, "A Holy Experience," why did it take me this long to read her first book? And what a keeper. I will need to return to this book and it's timeless reflections on grace and gratitude again and again. I don't think I can say it any better than what one of my favorite authors, Mark Buchanan (author of The Rest of God, which will be Sully Notes 18), wrote: "As I read One Thousand Gifts, I kept thinking of Walt Whitman's haunting phrase, 'Finally shall come the poet.' It's a rare gift that can render both life's everyday intimacies and the heart's broken rhythms in language at once lucid and lyrical, but Ann does it without seeming to try. And most of all, best of all, she employs that language to tell a story of a life her own transformed by the simple act of giving thanks. Finally comes the poet."


One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp Review of Quotes | Sully Notes 18: Part 1 of 3  

Chapter 1 | an emptier, fuller life

"I enter the world like every person born enters the world: with clenched fists. ... Could a name be any shorter? Three letters without even the flourish of an e. Ann, a trio of curves and lines. It means 'full of grace.' I haven't been. What does it mean to live full of grace? To live fully alive? ... For decades, a life, I continue to flail and strive and come up so seemingly ... empty. I haven't lived up to my christening."  pg. 9

"Can there be a good God? A God who graces with good gifts when a crib lies empty through long nights, and bugs burrow through coffins? Where is God, really? How can He be good when babies die, and marriages implode, and dreams blow away, dust in the wind? Where is grace bestowed when cancer gnaws and loneliness aches and nameless places in us soundlessly die, break off without reason, erode away. Where hides this joy of the Lord, this God who fills the earth with good things, and how do I fully live when life is full of hurt? How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out?" pg. 12

"Is this the toxic air of the world, this atmosphere we inhale, burning into our lungs, this No, God? No, God, we won't take what You give. No, God, Your plans are a gutted, bleeding mess and I didn't sign up for this and You really thought I'd go for this? No, God, this is ugly and this is a mess and can't You get anything right and just haul all this pain out of here and I'll take it from here, thanks. And God? Thanks for nothing. Isn't this the human inheritance, the legacy of the Garden? I wake and put the feet to the plank floors, and I believe the Serpent's hissing lie, the repeating refrain of his campaign through the ages: God isn't good. It's the cornerstone of his movement. That God withholds good from His children, that God does not genuinely, fully, love us. ... That forked tongue darts and daily I live the doubt, look at my reflection, and ask: Does God really love me? If He truly, deeply loves me, why does He withhold that which I believe will fully nourish me? Why do I live in this sense of rejection, of less than, of pain? Doe He not want me to be happy? ... Satan's sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave. Isn't that the catalyst of all my sins? Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren't satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other."  pgs. 14-15

"If I'm ruthlessly honest, I may have said yes to God, yes to Christianity, but really, I have lived the no. ... Losses do that. One life-loss can infect the whole of life. Like a rash that wears through our days, our sight becomes peppered with black voids. Now everywhere we look, we only see all that isn't: holes, lack, deficiency. ... His love letter forever silences any doubts (about His intentions): 'His secret purpose framed from the very beginning (is) to bring us to our full glory' (1 Corinthians 2:7 NEB). He means to rename us to return us to our true names, our truest selves. He means to heal our soul holes. From the very beginning, that Eden beginning, that has always been and always is, to this day, His secret purpose our return to our full glory. Appalling that He would! Us, unworthy. And yet since we took a bite out of the fruit and tore into our own souls, that drain hole where joy seeps away, God's had this wild secretive plan. He means to fill us with glory again. With glory and grace. Grace, it means 'favor,' from the Latin gratia. It connotes a free readiness. A free and ready favor. That's grace. It is one thing to choose to take the grace offered at the cross. But to choose to live as one filling with His grace? Choosing to fill with all that He freely gives and fully live with glory and grace and God?"  pgs. 16-18

"When we find ourselves groping along, famished for more, we can choose. When we are despairing, we can choose to live as Israelites gathering manna. For forty long years, God's people daily eat manna a substance whose name literally means 'What is it?' Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they don't comprehend. They find soul-filling in the inexplicable. They eat the mystery. They eat the mystery. And the mystery, that which made no sense, is 'like wafers of honey' on the lips. ... With memories of gravestones, of combing fingers through tangled hair, I wonder too ... if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see. To see through to God. That which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave. Maybe so. But how? How do we choose to allow the holes to become seeing-through-to-God-places? To more-God places? How do I give up resentment for gratitude, gnawing anger for spilling joy? Self-focus for God-communion? To fully live to live full of grace and joy and all that is beauty eternal. It is possible, wildly. I now see and testify. So this story is my story. A dare to an emptier, fuller life."  pgs. 22-23

Chapter 2 | a word to live ... and die by

"I wake to the discontent of life in my skin. I wake to self-hatred. To the wrestle to get it all done, the relentless anxiety that I am failing. Always, the failing. I yell at children, fester with bitterness, forget doctor appointments, lose library books, live selfishly, skip prayer, complain, go to bed too late, neglect cleaning the toilets. I lived tired. Afraid. Anxious. Weary. Years, I feel it in the veins, the pulsing of ruptured hopes. Would I ever be enough, find enough, do enough? ... How does one live ready, and always? Yes, ultimately, only Jesus. Yes, this premature dying to self, birthing into the cross-life, the grace cocoon before emerging into the life unending. Without this Jesus, no, no one can be ready. ... Isn't it here? The wonder? Why do I spend so much of my living hours struggling to see it? Do we truly stumble so blind that we must be affronted with blinding magnificence for our blurry soul-sight to recognize grandeur? The very same surging magnificence that cascades over our every day here. Who has time or eyes to notice?" pgs. 27, 29, 31

"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, and I read it. 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.' ... Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks? ... Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy. ... 'The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live ... He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything. ... Eucharisteo, it's the central symbol of Christianity. Thanksgiving. The table with its emblems is the essence of what it means to live the Christ-life. Sunday after Sunday ... we're formally invited to take the bread, the wine. Doesn't the continual repetition of beginning our week at the table of the Eucharist clearly place the whole of our lives into the context of thanksgiving? And too ... it's the most common of foods, bread. The drink of the vine has been part of our meal taking across centuries and cultures. Jesus didn't institute the Eucharist around some unusual, rare, once-a-year event, but around this continual act of eating a slice of bread, drinking a cup of fruit from the vine. First Corinthians 11:26 reads, 'whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup' (NIV) whenever. Like every day. Whenever we eat. Eucharisteo – whenever: now. Joy – wherever: here."  pgs. 32-34

"I shape loaves and think how Jesus took the bread and gave thanks ... and then the miracle of the multiplying of the loaves and fishes. How Jesus took the bread and gave thanks ... and then the miracle of Jesus enduring the cross for the joy set before Him. How Jesus stood outside Lazarus's tomb, the tears streaming down His face, and He looked up and prayed, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard me ... ' (John 11:41 NIV). And then the miracle of a dead man rising! Thanksgiving raises the dead! ... Eucharisteo – thanksgiving always precedes the miracle. ... 'The only real fall of man is his noneucharistic life in a noneucharistic world.' That was the fall! Non-eucharisteo, ingratitude, was the fall – humanity's discontent with all that God freely gives. That is what has scraped me raw: ungratefulness. Then to find Eden, the abundance of Paradise, I'd need to forsake my non-eucharisteo, my bruised and bloodied ungrateful life, and grab hold to eucharisteo, a lifestyle of thanksgiving. pg. 35

"On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces ... ' (1 Corinthians 11:23-24, emphasis added). Jesus, on the night before the driving hammer and iron piercing through ligament and sinew, receives what God offers as grace (charis), the germ of His thanksgiving (eucharistia)? Oh. Facing the abandonment of God Himself (does it get any worse than this?), Jesus offers thanksgiving for even that which will break Him and crush Him and wound Him and yield a bounty of joy (chara). The mystery always contains more mysteries. Do I really want this way? I listen to Matthew 11 for a whole week while exercising, panting hard, skin flushed with life, before I snare this truth – and it snares me: 'Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of the miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 'Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! ... If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day' (Matthew 11:20-21, 23 NIV). And then what does Jesus directly do, in the face of apparent failure, when no one responded to His teaching and things didn't work out at all? He lives out eucharisteo. 'At that time, (precisely at that failing time) Jesus answered and said, 'I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth ... ' (Matthew 11:25 KJV). In the midst of what seems a mess, in the tripping up and stumbling down of all hopes, Jesus gives thanks? What precedes the miracle is thanksgiving, eucharisteo, and it is a Greek word with a hard meaning that is harder yet to live. Do I really want to take up this word?"  pgs. 36-37

"Sozo means salvation. It means true wellness, complete wholeness. To live sozo is to live the full life. Jesus came that we might live life to the full; He came to give us sozo. And when did the leper receive sozo  the saving to the full, whole life? When he returned and gave thanks. I lay down my pen. Our very saving is associated with gratitude. ... We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks. Because how else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace. Thanksgiving is inherent to a true salvation experience; thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life. 'If the church is in Christ, its initial act is always an act of thanksgiving, of returning the world to God,' writes Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann. If I am truly in Christ, mustn't my initial act, too, always be an act of thanksgiving, returning to Jesus with thanks on the lips? ... 'He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God' (Psalm 50:23 NIV)."  pgs. 38-39

"At the Eucharist, Christ breaks His heart to heal ours – Christ, the complete accomplishment of our salvation. And the miracle of eucharisteo never ends: thanksgiving is what precedes the miracle of that salvation being fully worked out in our lives. Thanksgiving – giving thanks in everything – is what prepares the way for salvation's whole restoration. Our salvation in Christ is real, yet the completeness of that salvation is not yet fully realized in a life until the life realizes the need to give thanks. In everything? I would never experience the fullness of my salvation until I expressed the fullness of my thanks every day, and eucharisteo is elemental to living the saved life. ... All those years thinking I was saved and had said my yes to God, but was really living the no. Was it because I had never fully experienced the whole of my salvation? Had never lived out the fullest expression of my salvation in Christ? Because I wasn't taking everything in my life and returning to Jesus, falling at His feet and thanking Him. I sit still, blinded. This is why I sat all those years in church but my soul holes had never fully healed. Eucharisteo, the Greek word with the hard meaning and the harder meaning to live  this is the only way from empty to full. pgs. 40-41    

Chapter 3 | first flight

"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. Sarah Ban Breathnach, pg. 42

"To live – at all – I needed to know. I had read that too, written by a wise man of old, Jean Pierre de Caussade: 'When one is thirsty one quenches one's thirst by drinking, not by reading books which treat of this condition.' If we are dying of thirst, passively reading books about water quenches little; the only way to quench the parched mouth is to close the book and dip the hand into water and bring it to the lips. If we thirst, we'll have to drink. I would have to do something. ... 'I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little' (Philippians 4:11-12). I read it many times, groping for the latch. There it is  the secret to living joy in every situation, the full life of eucharisteo. Twice Paul whispers it: 'I have learned ... ' Learned. I would have to learn eucharisteo. Learn eucharisteo – learn it to live fully. Learn it like I know my skin, my face, the words on the end of my tongue. Like I know my own name. Learn how to be thankful – whether empty or full. ... To learn how to be grateful and happy, whether hands full or hands empty. That is a secret worth spending a life on learning. Even if it takes a Rosetta Stone of decades." – pgs. 44, 47

"'A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.' ... It's frustratingly common – it's offensive. Driving nails into a life always is. ... Paul had twice said it, and I mustn't forget it. He said he had to learn. And learning requires practice – sometimes even mind-numbing practice. C.S. Lewis said it too, to a man looking for fullest life: 'If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it's not so bad.' It might even be good. ... This is why I had never really learned the language of 'thanks in all things'! Though pastors preached it, I still came home and griped on. I had never practiced. Practiced until it became the second nature, the first skin. Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation. Practice, practice, practice. Hammer. Hammer. Hammer. This training might prove to be the hardest of my life. It just might save my life.– pgs. 49, 55-56

"Naming is Edenic. I name gifts and go back to the Garden and God in the beginning who first speaks a name and lets what is come into existence. This naming is how the first emptiness of space fills: the naming of light and land and sky. The first man's first task is to name. Adam completes creation with his Maker through the act of naming creatures, releasing the land from chaos, from the teeming, indefinable mass. ... to name is to learn the language of Paradise. ... 'Now, in the Bible a name ... reveals the very essence of a thing, or rather its essence as God's gift ... To name a thing is to manifest the meaning and value God gave it, to know it as coming from God and to know its place and function within the cosmos created by God. To name a thing, in other words, is to bless God for it and in it."  pg. 53

"Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy."   pg. 57

"I, too, had read it often, the oft-quoted verse: 'And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Ephesians 5:20). And I, too, would nod and say straight-faced, 'I'm thankful for everything.' But in this counting gifts, to one thousand, more, I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life. A lifetime of sermons on 'thanks in all things' and the shelves sagging with books on these things and I testify: life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time. Little nails and a steady hammer can rebuild a life ...  pgs. 57-58

"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 KJV). ... God is not in need of magnifying by us so small, but the 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. ... 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. pgs. 58-59

"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 his God' (Daniel 6:10, emphasis added). 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 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, emphasis added). 'First, I tell you to pray for all people, asking God for what they need and being thankful to him' (1 Timothy 2:1 NCV, emphasis added). Prayer without ceasing is only possible in a life of continual thanks. How did I ever think there was another way to enter into His courts but with thanksgiving?– pg. 60

"What that ancient wise woman 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 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. Eucharisteo 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?" – pgs. 60-61

Chapter 4 | a sanctuary of time

"God gives us time. And who has time for God? Which makes no sense. In Christ, we have everlasting existence? Don't Christians have all the time in eternity, life everlasting? If Christians run out of time – wouldn't we lose our very own existence? If anyone should have time, isn't it the Christ-followers? ... 'We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing' (Psalm 39:6)." – pgs. 64-65

"What was the pastor's most profound regret in life? ... 'Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing. ... Through all that haste, I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away. In our rushing, bulls in china shops, we break our own lives. ... 'On every level of life, from housework to heights of prayer, in all judgment and efforts to get things done, hurry and impatience are sure marks of the amateur. ... Hurry always empties a soul. ... in the beep and blink of the twenty-first century, with its 'live in the moment' buzz phrase that none of the whirl-weary seem to know how to do, who actually knows how to take time and live with soul and body and God all in sync?" – pgs. 65-67

"What am I to do? Make every moment a cathedral giving glory ... I am Jacob and the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it (Genesis 28:16). And it is eucharisteo curving the moment into a cupola of grace, an architecture of holiness – a place for God. Thanks makes now a sanctuary. And I take my vows: I will not desecrate this moment with ignorant hurry or sordid ingratitude. I will be Jacob, and I will name this moment the 'house of God' (Genesis 28:19). ... I awake to I AM here. When I'm present, I meet I AM, the very presence of a present God. In His embrace, time loses all sense of speed and stress and space and stands so still and ... holy. Here is the only place I can love Him.– pg.  70

"Jesus embraces His not enough ... He gives thanks ... And there is more than enough. More than enough! Eucharisteo always, always precedes the miracle. And who doesn't need a miracle like that every day? Thanksgiving makes time. Really? Give thanks and get time? Give thanks ... slow time down with all your attention – and your basket of not-enough-time multiplies into more than enough time. ... The real problem of life is never a lack of time. The real problem of life in my life – is lack of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving creates abundance; and the miracle of multiplying happens when I give thanks – take the just one loaf, say it is enough, and give thanks – and He miraculously makes it more than enough. ... Calm. Haste makes waste. Life is not an emergency. Life is brief and it is fleeting but it is not an emergency. I pick up a coat and thank God for the arms that can do it. Emergencies are sudden, unexpected events but is anything under the sun unexpected to God? ... I can always give thanks because an all-powerful God always has all these things – all things always under control. I breathe deep and He preaches to me, soothing the time-frenzied soul with the grace river in whisper. Life is not an emergency. Life is eucharisteo." – pgs. 73-74

" ... think of the strangers walking briskly, blithely along to Emmaus, oblivious to the God-skin before their eyes. Only in the slowing, the sitting down at the table, when His hands held the bread and the thanks fell from His tongue, do the open-eyed, the wide-eyed, see the Face they face (Luke 24:13-35). The fast have spiritually slow hearts. ... 'Wherever you are, be all there' is only possible in the posture of eucharisteo. I want to slow down and taste life, give thanks, and see God. ... Don't always have the choice to be fully attentive? Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus. Eucharisteo, eucharisteo. That keeps the focus simple – sacred.– pg. 77 


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