I sit at the prayer bench before my bedroom window.

Outside, our boys roll millions of flakes into a snow fort.

I read the passage in the Bible open in front of me, one I remember from the musty basement of the Knox Presbyterian Church Sunday school. Uh, yeah — I think I know this one. Yeah . . . Jesus restores ten lepers to wholeness. And only one returns to offer any thanks. I remember the moral too, Mrs. Morrison and her glossy red lipstick: “How often do you remember to say thanks?” Yeah, I think I know this one.

I skim.


“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him — and he was a Samaritan” {Luke 17:15–16}. Yeah, yeah, thankfulness, I know. Next verse.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then He said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” {Luke 17:17–19}


I trace back. Hadn’t Jesus already completely healed him? Exactly like the other nine who were cured who hadn’t bothered to return and thank Him.

So what does Jesus mean, “Your faith has made you well”? Had I underinterpreted this passage, missed some hidden mystery?

I slow down and dig. Read Jesus’ words in Young’s Literal Translation, “And [Jesus] said to him, ‘Having risen, be going on, thy faith has saved thee.’”

Saved thee? I dig deeper. It’s sozo in the Greek. Many translations render sozo as being made “well” or “whole,” but its literal meaning, I read it— “to save.” Sozo means salvation.

Sozo — 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 our gratitude.

Mrs. Morrison hadn’t mentioned this. But . . . yeah, of course.

If our fall in the Garden of Eden was the non-eucharisteo, non-thanksgiving, the ingratitude for all that God had given and longing from the one tree He’d forbidden us to eat from — then salvation must be intimately related to eucharisteo, the giving of thanks.

I look back to the text. That is what it says: “Thy faith has saved thee.” And the leper’s faith was a faith that said thank you. Is that it?

Jesus counts thanksgiving as integral in a faith that saves.

We only enter into the full life — into sozo — 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 — sozo!

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?

I would read it much later in the pages of the Psalms. At the close of a Communion service as the bread and the wine were returned to the table. The Farmer would hand his Bible over to me, his finger holding the verse for me to see because he had just read it there, what I had been saying, living, believing — and the chin would quiver before I’d brim at the way God shows His salvation:

“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}.

Thanksgiving — giving thanks in everything — prepares the way that God might show us His fullest salvation in Christ.

The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God — even for the bread and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion — this prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all sin that estranges us from Him.

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 fully realized in a life until the life realizes the need to fully 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.

Mrs. Morrison hadn’t told me this either.

And sitting there before the window, I’m struck, a comet blazing across the dark places in my 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 by the light of it, the truth of it — and am unblinded. 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 emptiness to full.

I watch our boys carve in the wall of their snowfort.

They dig and their cheeks flame with the heat of the work, their hair damp with the effort.

The packed snow of the fort gives way and there it is. A door in the wall.


Q4U: How is life feeling a bit messy for you right now? Are you finding it hard to give thanks? Receive Grace? Give Grace? So what do you think — how can you dare to be grateful, right where you are in this new year?

Share on Twitter:

Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His Grace. {Tweet this!}

Related: One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Transform your life and this year in 60 days


  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    I love this message, but even more, I love how God’s Word is living. Just when we think we’ve got it…we understand its meaning…God turns it on its head and takes us deeper and reveals new shades of meaning and understanding. Just like our learning and understanding can go deeper, so can our thanksgiving. How many times do I offer up half hearted thanks when really I ought to be dropping to my knees and worshiping God with a thankful heart. In essence when I hold back on gratitude, I am withholding sozo from truly taking place in my heart and soul. Praying, this year, to be filled with, and offer up true gratitude. I have so much to be thankful for…thank you for this much needed post!

    • AnnVoskamp_HolyExperience

      ah, and did you ever nail it, Bev. May our thanksgiving never end…as the Lord reveals new shades of meaning and understanding. Just beautiful. God bless you as you make yourself a blessing over and over again. On my knees with you, sister…

  • http://kriscamealy.com/ Kris Camealy

    In everything, give thanks. That’s what the Word says–in everything. Thank you for reminding me of what I am too quick to forget. More often than not, I am like the ones who were healed and ran off without thanksgiving, so eager to just go on living. Your words offer counsel today, Ann. It’s as if you draped your arm over my shoulder and whispered it to me, “Don’t forget to give thanks”. So I start here, thanking God for the timeliness of this message, and you, for bringing the light. Love you, friend.

    • AnnVoskamp_HolyExperience

      Oh, Kris, humblest gratitude for your honest and thoughtful words here…you are so so loved, friend. And yes! Living gratitude guides us all to Who matters most!

  • http://www.lauracrosby.me Laura

    Love this reminder, Ann. Thanks! It makes sense that it’s only through thanksgiving that we truly acknowledge our salvation is not of ourselves, but dependent on God who gives this amazing gift. Thanksgiving helps us to re-orient to our true north.

    • AnnVoskamp_HolyExperience

      Laura, well, I’m just real glad we can do messy & real life together, This is me leaning over & give you a thumbs up, sister…and giving thanks to HIM right with you!

  • karen

    I am leading a group of women in my home this year and an integral part of the personal disciplines we are establishing is to give thanks…..each day, at least 5 things. It will restore to us the joy of our salvation, I am certain of it! THANKS FOR THIS!

    • AnnVoskamp_HolyExperience

      Karen, ~smiling tears~ … bowed grateful with you. How many times a day do I murmur: “Thank you, Lord…. Thank you, Lord.” May we do so even more…for paying attention to our lives is a way to pay thanks to our Lord! Cheering you on as you count the ways He loves you…

  • http://livingcenter.me/ Nancy Wolfe @ livingcenter.me

    True gratitude is tied to humility.
    I find that it’s easy to be thankful for those things we unwrap that were on the Wish List. Or for a little note from the toddler just learning that letters make words.
    But the gift of salvation is so overwhelming – something we could never ever do on our own. It’s humbling. And, in our modern self-made-person you-deserve society, humility is not an easy posture to assume.
    I pray that this year will bring a crystal clear picture of salvation and true gratitude. And that we will all find sozo.
    Thank you again, Ann

    • AnnVoskamp_HolyExperience

      …right down there in the trenches with you, Nancy, looking up in thanks to Him for it all.

  • http://tuningmyhearttopraise.blogspot.com/ ro elliott

    Yes…yes… The only way from emptiness to full… I lived in the land of not enough for far too long …hammering out the ways God loves me …at first seemed so surface…so trite… But the hammer of thanks broke up my hard heart…and let thanksliving… Tranform my heart… Giving thanks…eucharisteo…cuts deeper into our self will …self thoughts…and sense of entitlement deeper than any other “practice” …God knows us…He love us…instructing us to give thanks …to rejoice In our day…is Him loving us to the full life…again…Ann,thanks for opening my heart to this truth xoxo

  • Linda Miltzow

    What a good morning it is, Ann, when we can open up God’s Word and let Him breathe out over us. Oh, that we would remember to inhale as that very breath speaks over us, to fill us with His good. So often we do find ourselves glossing right over wonderful familiar passages, without any thought that He has something new for us to learn and grow into a deeper love with Him. This Christmas season it was the word “given, gave” from Isaiah 9:6 and John 3:16 and how there were crossed referenced with each other.
    This most precious gift ever is a gift given. Nothing needed in return, nothing to do to earn it. Only my thanksgiving to Him, my eucharisteo, which seems so inadequate and some days hurried and shallow.

    Verses 14 and 15 from Psalm 50 say:
    “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vow to the Most High,
    and call upon me in the day of trouble;
    I will deliver you,
    and you shall glorify me.”

    Praying that each day as we meet with Him, we come prepared with our sacrifice of thanksgiving…in our hearts and on our lips…as He breathes His breath of Life to us.

    May we be like the one leper who runs back to the Healer, “praising God in a loud voice, throwing myself at Jesus’ feet and thanking Him.” (my paraphrase from Luke 17)

    Blessings for a thank-filled day, everyday!

    • AnnVoskamp_HolyExperience

      *Thank you* for living that kind of encouragement, that kind of daily appreciation, for making your thanking into Thanksgiving…you share good words here today, ((Linda))

  • Rebecca Jones

    I can comment on this from personal experience, I had heard of sozo, but experienced healing myself, I know Jesus, my mother’s prayer saved my life. I was like the one leper, so much so I could hear the Holy Spirit saying,”Don’t over do it!” I’ve never been able to figure that out about people, how do they walk away from auto accidents, recover from heart surgery or something and never mention Jesus if they are Christians? There are lot of nines running around out there, Ann. And eucharisto, it is why I take Communion at home, I want the abundant life Jesus has for me.

  • Penny


    For all that has helped prepare me and taught me acceptance, for what might seem simple to others. And for when He walked with me when otherwise I would of been alone, in everything I am thankful.

    Thank-you Ann I am grateful for your beautiful reminder of giving thanks to Him this morning.

    Blessings and Happy New Year,


  • Diana

    Had a medical treatment today. Really tired from it. Hard to think–express words. But one thing that’s in my heart stirred up by Ann’s words…I’m so grateful that Jesus “sozo” me! His grace is sufficient for me…His power is made perfect in this weakness, the power to be grateful even when feel so exhausted. Praise the Lord! Thanking Him for using this blog to remind me of His goodness.

  • Joanne Peterson

    Ann, been a long very hard 2015. I am like the other lepers, I have not thanked God for it all. I know in my being, He will bring good from all of the pain, and heartache, and just plain hard. It is the gratitude living in the life Jesus gave us to live life abundantly. We just covered this verse from bible study in the Gospel of John last week, and I will have to remember the connection of fullness of life, salvation by our individual thankfulness in all things. Thank you…..the remembrance of God’s faithfulness is enough to bring thanksgiving in all circumstances, and His love shown through Jesus and the Holy Spirit poured out for us while we were yet sinners. New vision is necessary for me. Thank you for the blessing of this word study/Truth. Joanne

    • Beth Williams

      Prayers that 2016 will be a better year for you and your family! Life is hard at times, but we can give thanks for the good times!! May God bless you all and bring about healing, give you peace and contentment!

      • Joanne Peterson

        Thank you so much Beth! I cherish and covet your prayers! Sozo is something I will have to pay attention to in my life experiences. Hugs too! Joanne

  • http://redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

    Yes to messy. Yes, hard to give thanks. And it makes me feel guilty to admit that but I know the revelation God is giving you is real and true and it does make a difference. I’ve experienced the miracle over and over and over again and yet, I still doubt the next time hard comes knocking with all of it’s road blocks and difficulties.Thanks for the reminder to give thanks in all things Ann, I’m so thankful He gave you the message of eucharisteo. xx

    • Laurie Evans


  • Michele

    In am sitting here still sick since before Christmas, wondering how I can be thankful in even this? And then
    think how can I not be thankful? I have so much to be thankful for. I do admit I am frustrated, thinking how many duties are around me begging to be done yesterday. Oh well. I think the hardest is that I can’t get out and I am going stir crazy. I have a friend that is in need of help, and momma with foster twins that could use a hand. And I sit here…not able to help physically at all. I lift them both to Jesus, but for some reason that just doesn’t seem enough to me.
    Thank you for your encouragement today! It has blessed my heart and quieted my soul to be still and know my God knew even this!

    • Val Lecher

      I’ve been moaning and groaning about not being able to keep up with the mess of my five kiddos or figure out how to train them to keep up with it. Yesterday I realized that sometimes (often) I give the impression that they are burdens even though I believe they are blessings. Have been considering making thankful lists with each kiddos name at the top and adding little blessings/moments from each kiddo. Even just imagining what I’d put on the lists had already made me treasure them more. Thanks for this reminder, Ann – it’s amazing how many times I need to hear it.

  • Karen B

    Looking for the most unlikely, quietest things to be thankful for, thank-filled about. Perspective is shifting. It’s slow but in the intentional act, it is Glorious!!!! It is changing me from the inside out!!

  • Lilia

    “All those years thinking I was saved and had said my yes to God, but was really living the no”
    You taught me that I too had been saying no to God all these years. I tended to be cautious of optimism. But, rather than protecting myself from hurt I was shriveling my soul. Thank you. I’ve learned life is wonderful–even when it isn’t.

  • Laurie Evans

    Thank you for sharing this message again.
    This is Laurie from Wisconsin… Last year (2015) I chose the word “whole” to help me define my goal to work out my salvation in all areas of my life (body, mind and spirit). I have been inspired from your writings (and seeing you speak in MN and OR, where you graciously signed books for me). About 1996 our pastor gave a sermon on Luke 17:17-19 pointing out the very highlights of your piece above. He knew at the time that he was suffering from terminal cancer, although we didn’t know… Your writings clarified the Scripture even further.
    The Biblical meaning of well/whole has had a big impact:
    In 2015 I became abstinent from sugar and wheat and lost over 100 pounds. All glory to God because His miracle of removing the cravings from my body. Spiritually, I have been experiencing more and more of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling; mentally I have been tackling character flaws that block my relationship to God as well as interfere with my family relationships. I have a long way to go… and 2015 was very messy… and 2016 is starting out pretty messy too. But, I know I do not walk alone. Because His love for me is startling and real!
    This year I am choosing the word “breathe” to help me continue on the path of His peace. I need to “breathe” IN peace, calm, quiet, contentment, forgiveness, and love and “breathe” OUT the worry, anxiety, anger, grumbling, hurry, “life is an emergency” mindset.
    Thank you for this post on InCourage and for your commitment to express gratitude to God in everything, including the hard eucharisteo. It has profoundly affected me, and I thank God for you.
    In Christ,
    Laurie from Wisconsin

  • Janet from FL

    Because of reading your book 1000 Gifts, Ann, I keep a journal on my kitchen table, labeled “God’s Blessings”. In it I keep a list daily of things I thank God for. I am so glad I read your book. (I also have given it as gifts.) Thanks for sharing this devo with us. It makes me more sure that I am not wasting my time writing thanks in that journal.

  • Beth Williams

    I have spent years as a “moderate” Christian. I went to church, prayed some, etc. It was about 8 or so years ago that I “got it”. The true meaning of Salvation and All that God had done for me! Some Sundays I will cry when we do communion–because I can see my Jesus on that ugly cross for me!!! WOW! I am trying to live a sozo life by thanking God for everything He gives me!!
    The last two years have been hard and I haven’t been as thankful as I should. I’m working on seeing the good in everything and at times it can be hard.
    Blessings :)

  • Megan Ward

    This past year (and the last several years, honestly) have been the most difficult for my soul. I felt a hole of uncertainty and doubt filling me up from the inside out until I wasn’t even sure if God was there or really cared for us. So many in need. So much pain. So much hypocrisy. So much doubt. I have had trouble remembering the beauty and the good things and the righteous thinks. And the hope that i once knew in Christ. My faith is forever changed. And I think this is where it starts anew. Inside sozo. Eucharisteo. A mustard seed of faith and gratitude for new beginnings and renewed hope.