Friday, December 4, 2020

Online Book Club - Wrapping Up November: Thankful/Thanksgiving

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I've joined in with some blogging friends for an online book club, and we are wrapping up this week. By the way, all our readers are invited to join in as well. In November our challenge was the theme Thankful or Thanksgiving. I'm looking forward to seeing what the other participants read and did with this theme!

(By the way, I'm much later than I'd planned in writing this, in part because of computer problems - my desktop isn't working at all, so I am working with just a chromebook and it's limiting. Anyway . . . )

I went to the library for a couple of books, so it was partway through the month by the time I got started with the first one I received. I've been reading Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks by Diana Butler Bass. Right at the end of the month, the library was able to fulfill my request for One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, which I'd almost given up on. So I've barely started on it!


Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks by Diana Butler Bass - Bass is a religion scholar and author, and in this book she explores the meaning and practice of gratitude, and how it can change our own lives for the better. Gratitude is good, and most of us think we're grateful or realize that we should be grateful, but it's not as easy as it seems. First, how do we define gratitude? Personally, I was surprised at how difficult it was to describe what it is or how it feels. Or even to determine whether it's a feeling or something more. Bass opens with a Prologue that helps with the definition, and the realization that we experience gratitude in different ways. The book addresses the four main ways we experience and live out gratitude.

At its heart, gratitude involves emotions and ethics, and can experienced as an individual or in community, and we tend to put emphasis on one of the combinations more than the others, which colors our perception of gratitude. Gratitude can be an emotional response to a gift or something done for us, or it can be a moral or ethical code of returning favors or behaving responsibly with gifts and blessings. It might be a deep appreciation and celebration in community with others - singing the anthem, worshiping with other believers, or celebrating your team's big win. Or it might a social responsibility with commitment to charity, stewardship, volunteering, and the good of society. 

Although it contains suggestions for cultivating a more grateful mindset and practicing the habits of gratitude, this is not a how-to book with checklists or worksheets. But if you want to think deeply about what it means to you to be grateful, and consider many viewpoints and practices of gratitude, it's an interesting and thought-provoking read.

Gratitude is both a noun and a verb. Gratitude is both a feeling and a choice. The first often arises unannounced and the second takes a lifetime of practice.

. . . our ability to experience life as a gift, to treasure that gift, and to feel its power, even in the most violent and demeaning of circumstances, is the very essence of human existence. Life is the gift. Not what we have, but that we are.

Gratitude cannot change the past, but it can help us understand the past in ways that give joy and help us flourish. 


One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp - Voskamp is a well-known author and blogger, especially in Christian circles. I've read many articles on her website, even thought I don't subscribe to her newsletter or anything like that. I've never read this popular book before, but I've wanted to. Since I haven't finished yet - not even close - I won't pretend to describe it as if I had. What I'm finding so far is that it's Voskamp's own journey to finding joy through being thankful. 

In answer to the questions she had - and most of us have! - about how we can possibly find joy and gratitude in our overly busy lives full of debts and deadlines and even drudgery, she started with an insight into the Greek word from which "he gave thanks" is translated. (At the Last Supper, when Jesus broke the bread and gave thanks before sharing it with his disciples.) She shares that the Greek word there is eucharisteo. The root word is charis which is "grace" which is also the root of the word chara or "joy". 

From that starting point, Voskamp's peaceful, reflective style invites the reader to join in this discovery of seeing everyday blessings, giving thanks, and thereby finding joy and contentment.

A threefold cord that might hold a life? Offer a way up into the fullest life?
Grace, thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisteo.


Although these two books approach thankfulness from slightly different perspectives, both are insightful and instructive. I think I'm grateful most of the time, but I don't think I convey that. In fact, I'm sure that I don't come across that way to others a lot of the time. Just as social media doesn't always give us an accurate picture of others, it doesn't always reflect an accurate picture of ourselves - our virtues or our flaws. As my reading has challenged me to remember to focus on gratitude and to express gratitude more openly and generously, one of the ways that I think I can do that is to pay attention to what my social media reflects. 

Visit Hopkins Homeschool to find out more about the online book club, and visit all the participating bloggers to see what they've read as part of this theme!

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Amanda H said...

I love One Thousand Gifts! I need to go and read that one again!! Thank you for joining us!

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