on February 22, 2011
I think this is one of those reviews that I'm going to take some heat over because I know this book and the author are very popular in Christian circles right now. That's why I wanted to read it myself, because I had heard so much about it.
First, the positive. I know several bloggers who are sharing their own 1000 gifts/gratitude lists and I'm always blessed to read them. I have kept my own accounting of what I call "grace notes" for years so I understand the blessing of looking for things to be thankful for. Voskamp shares from her heart with stories about her family and her own spiritual journey, and I think anyone reading this book would come away with a heightened sense of looking for God's grace in daily life whether it be having one's child come through surgery or the admiring the beauty of a full moon. I appreciate the encouragement to live life fully right where we are without feeling we need to work through a "bucket list" of daring experiences or exotic locations before we can be fulfilled.
But, this was a difficult book for me to read. Voscamp is obviously a poet at heart but the entire book is sing-songy with long descriptions and awkward word phrases and metaphors that I found distracting. It doesn't read as someone would actually talk in real life conversation.
As an example: "...tonight over our farm will rise the Great Hexagon of the blazing winter stars - Sirius, Rigel, ruby Aldebran, Capella, the fiery Gemini twins, and Procyon, and in the center, scarlet Betelgeuse, the red supergiant larger than twice the size of earth's orbit around the sun - and I will embrace the skin of a boy child that my body grew from a seed. The low heavens outside the paned windows fill with more snowflakes than stars, no two-stacked crystals the same; the trees in the wood draw in collective green breath to the still of January hibernation, and God in the world with birth ice from His womb, frost of heaven, bind the chains of the Pleiades, loose the cords of Orion, and number again the strands on my head."
Those who like this kind of poetic narrative with mystical undertones will enjoy this book. Those who don't will likely struggle to find the message in the sea of words. For me, it was just too much page after page, and it took me a while to finish the book because I had to take it in small doses.
I was also wary of the mystical/contemplative spirituality/emergent church references, as she references those known to be mystics, panentheists, universalists, or New Age authors such as Brother Lawrence, Henri Nouwen, Annie Dillard, Brennan Manning, Sarah Ban Breathnach, Teresa of Avila, and Dallas Willard, among others. The influence of the teachings of these various authors is apparent in Voskamp's writing.
In addition, I was uncomfortable with the chapter on making love to Jesus in which the author speaks of seeking communion with God in what can only be termed as sexual language, taking it to a level that I personally don't believe scripture intends. Voskamp writes, "Mystical union. This, the highest degree of importance. God as Husband in sacred wedlock, bound together, body and soul, fed by His body, quenched by His blood . . . God, He has blessed - caressed. I could bless God - caress with thanks. It's our making love. God makes love with grace upon grace, every moment a making of His love for us. . . . couldn't I make love to God, making every moment love for Him? To know Him the way Adam knew Eve. Spirit skin to spirit skin. . . The intercourse of soul with God is the very climax of joy . . . To enter into Christ and Christ enter into us - to cohabit."
Scripture doesn't teach that our relationship with God is to be a sexual, orgasmic experience or that we are to know him the way Adam as husband knew Eve as his wife. Further, what are children and men supposed to do with the notion of making love to Jesus?
Despite the doctrinal and personal issues with this book, I tried to stay focused on what I felt the author's intended message of the book was: live fully and abundantly in daily life by being thankful for the gifts that come from God's grace, no matter how small. I am inspired to live more fully in this kind of gratitude.
This review is simply my opinion of what was actually in the book and not a reflection on the author herself, whom I do not know personally. Her writing style just doesn't appeal to me and I have to question some of the "theology" in the book which is why I recommend discernment when reading it.
on March 22, 2011
I am a little baffled by One Thousand Gifts. Baffled that everyone seems to love the book, baffled at the reviews, and baffled that I do not seem to be enjoying the book like I expected.
I have seen some major comment craziness over this book which causes me a little apprehension in sharing my thoughts because I don't particularly want to be stoned or have virtual banana peels throw my way. The truth is; however, I did not love it. I had to force myself to keep reading which having a review copy demanded.
Sure, I was touched by the sadness author Ann VosKamp has had to deal with and I wished it was not so for her. Plus, I think giving thanks to God is important; however, I found myself weighed down by her constant, poetical voice. It was hard to follow and taxing to read. Sometimes, I wanted her to say what she meant straight out and not make me search for the intended meaning nor be forced to reread sentences because of the unconventional wording. I personally feel that her prose works for short blog posts but not an entire book, and I wondered if the entire message of the book could be condensed into one or more blog posts that would have been just as encouraging.
As I was reading, there were sentences and sections that made me pause and want to line it up with truth. I wondered if in her manner, there were liberties taken. Just three of the parts that made me wonder were as follows:
"If clinging to His goodness is the highest form of prayer, then seeing His goodness with a pen, with the shutter, with a word of thanks, these really are the most sacred acts conceivable." (pg. 61) So, writing down or taking pictures of what you are thankful for is a sacred act and actually "the most sacred act conceivable"?
"Here is the only place I can love Him." (pg. 70) She can only love God when she writes her list?
"...discover how to make love to God." (pg. 201) When you use certain words and phrases, you think certain things (sex, not necessarily intimacy).
Perhaps these questions I had were because I was not enjoying the poetry in it all. I do understand that a new voice, a break from ordinary is refreshing and her fan base is solid. Based on bloggers I read and Tweets I am following the majority are devouring One Thousand Gifts.
I did not enjoy One Thousand Gifts, but I do like Ann VosKamp. I read her blog, Holy Experience, at times and sometimes, I link up. From my readings, I believe she loves God with all her heart and desires to serve Him; so none of that is in question here. Plus, despite the fact that the reading was laborious to me, I did close the book desiring to keep writing my list of thanks and wanting to see God's hand in all of my life, which was the purpose and goal of the book to be sure. Thanks to Ann, I have a list going that started long before her book and because of her blog.
One Thousand Gifts was given to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
on November 16, 2011
I read both good and bad reviews before getting this book thinking that all the good reviews definitely outweighed the bad. But after reading it, I suggest you heed the negative ones carefully, including this.
I've been a creative writer and editor for nearly 20 years and this book is a "headthrobber." I appreciate the theme and the whole passion for thanksgiving and living life fully for Christ, but the way it is written is agonizing. Too many adjectives clumped together, too many dangling clauses, too many useless words, and a trail of thought that has no structure... The whole gift is just lost on me by the time I get to the end of the paragraph. Rather than be blessed by the beauty of what it wishes to impart, I ended up annoyed and disturbed that I am reading a journal of sorts of a very messy mind. I couldn't finish a paragraph without heaving a sigh and rubbing my wrinkled forehead. I am surprised that so many people are rating this with 5 stars. I wish someone edited this in a way that would have preserved the thought without sacrificing style, but with a clear trail of thought, well-structured paragraphs, beautifully constructed sentences, and wise use of adjectives.
I feel the author tried too hard to translate a painting into words, making this book a canvass of her own abstractions. It felt as if she had a thesaurus beside her and used every polysyllabic word without hesitation. It seemed like she had many resources (especially on constellations and the cosmos) and just wanted to pour everything she knows in one book. What a mess.
I am NOT recommending this to any one at all.
on November 6, 2012
I really wanted to like this book. But the author's addiction to torturing the English language was more than I could bear. I kept hoping we would move over to the "practical guide" the book jacket promised. That was a very empty promise - there is nothing practical about this book. Worst writing I've ever encountered.
on October 23, 2011
Seems many people are really into this book.
Let me say that though I am a sincere Christian and I do read a lot of Christian books) I really did not like this book
Weird back hills talk.....
Ex: "I will embrace the skin of a boy child that my body grew from a seed". P. 31
( that is just weird in a creepy way)
I am from the east coast. Moms from this area say something like "I gave my kid a hug today".
I have lived in various parts of the country and I have never heard such a description of a hug.
To be blunt this is self indulgent literary rubbish.
She likes to repeat things at least two times, even three..... p. 22
They eat the mystery
They eat the mystery
And the mystery.......
This literary technique (if you can call it that) is not effective. Say it well once and move on!! The subtle grace of literary Parallelism would have been a better choice.
There is a lot of emotional angst peppered with overly and oddly described scene after scene with no room for you to rest in a sentence of normalcy. In a way, this is like "jumping the shark" albeit in a book that never had been read the first time around. She is trying too hard.
If I am not in the least bit vaguely interested or slightly curious --then I have to pass.
This author could not hold my interest. I gave up on page 41.
If you would like to read a book about gratitude that is well written and makes the point clearly without overworking the verbiage and hence your nerves then try Sarah BanBreathnach's "Simple Abundance".
I suppose I will take a lot of heat for this review because it is not in agreement with most reviews.
That's okay. But no, don't ask me to read the entire book. I am done.
on June 10, 2011
I picked up this book because I heard it was a treasure- a book you'll keep on your bookshelf and read often. I was intrigued and very interested in reading it. When I got my copy, I thought One Thousand Gifts definitely had the look and feel of a book containing treasures. I was excited to see what lay inside it's pages.
One Thousand Gifts is largely a book about thanksgiving, or as the author puts it, "eucharisto." Choosing to look for the good gifts God gives every day, compiling them in a list of "One Thousand Gifts" and being thankful for them-- recognizing the little things as gifts from God!
The main concept of this book was great, and one that I think will be helpful to a lot of people. However, I had quite a few problems with this book. I was disappointed that nearly everything the author listed as one of her "gifts" was something that could be seen or touched on this earth. Rarely did I see thankfulness for God's many promises. If we are truly thankful to God, I believe we will be thankful for Spiritual blessings, God's many benefits, in addition to the physical things He blesses us with. I was disappointed that the author's thankfulness list rarely included Spiritual blessings or answers to prayer, both of which I consider integral, even more important than physical things when giving thanks to God.
As I began reading One Thousand Gifts, one of the first things I noticed was Ann's poetic style of writing. I've heard nothing but positive reviews, but personally, I found the writing style more annoying the further I got through the book. I had a very hard time getting through this book, especially because the writing wasn't like anything I've ever heard spoken. And I found the style to be irritating.
I also found a few theological faults with One Thousand Gifts. The first was the fact that the author seems to say that bad things that happen to us are gifts from God and we need to be thankful for them. The Bible clearly states that all good comes from God and bad comes from the enemy. "Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights," states the Bible. And we are required to give thanks "in" everything. God will certainly bring good out of the bad that happens to us, but we should not think that God brings bad to us.
The most disturbing chapter of the book, however, was when the author compares God's relationship with the church to a marriage relationship. Using sexual language to get the point across, the author took it so far, it was disturbing. I wasn't at all happy with this chapter, as it seemed that the author is coming from a sensual, rather than Biblical point of view.
From the time I started reading this book, I wanted to give it a good review, in fact, I have hardly even seen a negative review of it. But I can not recommend it. Although there are plenty of great points, and some really good advice, there are just as many negative aspects of One Thousand Gifts. I personally believe you can find much more benefit from studying what the Bible says about thanksgiving and beginning a thankfulness journal than by reading this book.
on December 14, 2010
Anything but a light read, Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts; A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, has left me undone...only to be reformed by the Hand of my Master. Join me as I share a small piece of how the Savior has used it in my life.
Captured immediately by Ann's incredible gift of pen, I learned that life dealt her several seemingly cruel hands. The book begins with the story of the loss of Ann's sister, Aimee, who was literally crushed in front of her family by a trucker who simply didn't see her. As a mother of young children, the sheer angst of Ann's telling made me want to crawl in bed with my little ones and hold them close to me forever. A mother's heart wants to protect...and yet with raw authenticity Ann cracks open the question we all have asked at one time or another, "How can a good God..."
Her answer comes in what I found to be a most unlikely place. Thanksgiving.
I always thought of myself as a thankful person before reading this book. I know I have been blessed...or at least I can look at my life and see good things I call blessings...and they outnumber the bad things I call something else. But Ann made me think beyond my limitations...in fact urging me to put on a whole new set of eyes to see the deep thankfulness in both the good and the bad. A task not humanly possible.
But nothing is impossible with God. She calls it eucharisteo. And I admit to letting it roll off of my lips in those sacred moments of deep thanksgiving.
And so I began, with great excitement, counting my blessings with Ann. Little gratitudes found along the way. A soft little cheek here, a song lyric there...Before I knew what was happening, I began seeing thanksgiving in things I had overlooked for a lifetime. In a recent blog post, I wrote these words describing this new way of seeing:
"I'm seeing them EVERYWHERE of late...picture must needs! And me with no real camera! I'm eaten inside with the desire to capture the deep thanksgiving...the things the Lord seems to be doing just for me in the sky...with those clouds...and those mountains and when, tell me WHEN, did those mountains I've loved all my life begin looking so glorious in the fall? Someone MUST needs take a picture!"
Indeed...the Lord seems to have given me a new set of eyes. And rather than calling only the good the blessing, I now clearly see the radical, hard thanksgiving in the bad.
Though I say that with a hint of fear.
Because a part of me still lives in fear that if I invite God to bring me wholly into Him, great sacrifice...loss...will be required of me to get there. I know that in this world we will have troubles...and I know that suffering is means God uses to draw us unmistakably to Him. I know He can be trusted. I know He is good. But the fear remains. What if God must take something (someone?) from me to bring me to Him most fully? I cannot ask that of Him.
Angie Smith, at a recent conference said (paraphrased) about the loss of her infant daughter , Audrey Caroline, "for all that her death has brought me...the understanding of God, the opportunities to comfort others and show them God's grace...I would still rather have Audrey." And my heart nods in agreement. This describes the words of my heart.
Beautifully and fully, Ann weaves comfort to my fear when she says, "It is impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear" (p. 203). And now I know the reason for the thanksgiving...the counting of the blessings...graces. So many times God calls us to remember and give thanks, for as we remember His good works, His salvation, His provisions, protection...we give thanks...and are built up, given peace and hope that He can do it again. Knowing this helps me take one step closer to the fullness of Him and realize it as an area where He continues to work.
His work is grace.
And I can not only count my gratitude, I can actually BE grace to those around me. "A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ" (p.184). And "to give the thanks away. That thanks-giving might literally become thanks-living" (p. 192).
I am not the same. Upside down in a right-side-up world and wanting to stay there. Seeking the thanksgivings of each day with a fully devoted heart knowing that I'll have to read it again...and probably again. So many are the thoughts of my heart right now...so many are the ways I feel challenged to look beyond circumstances for the thanksgiving in life. So fully have I decided to live in this dare of the right now...that all I have to say to Ann Voskamp (and to my Savior) is:
One Thousand Thank-You's friends.
Brooke McGlothlin, of A Life in Need of Change
on February 3, 2012
I have read this book and found quite a few things about Ann Voskamp's book that we should be cautious of:
1. She quotes Henri Nouwen (as do a lot of people who sell books & DVDs in Christian bookstores) who said, "Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God's house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God." (Universalism, Universal Salvation - heretical)
2. She quotes Brennan Manning (as do a lot of people who sell books & DVDs in Christian bookstores) who has said, "I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages (the Bible) will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants." (Low view of Scripture)
3. She quotes Julian of Norwich (a Catholic mystic) who has said, "And I saw no difference between God and our Substance: but as it were all God." (Seriously? Reminds me of what the enemy said in the garden.)
4. She quotes Annie Dillard who has said, "I have no religion, or many religions." (Ridiculous statement!)
5. I found this statement written in the book very offensive: "I fly to Paris and discover how to make love to God." The whole of her book is about living the simple life, and yet she has to fly off to Paris to have the ultimate experience with God? (not to mention offensive sexual reference!)
That's just a few examples. I know this book is very popular in Christian women's circles. But unfortunately, we live in a time where we need to scrutinize even things that come out of Christian bookstores.
Is the thankfulness message in the book good? Yes. But I would recommend reading this review to have a fuller understanding of why we must be cautious reading and recommending her book: [...]
I once heard someone say they were putting on their Ann Voskamp "Thankfulness" list that they were thankful for paper clips. This is an example of spiritualizing something - giving it a spiritual context where there isn't one. Yes, we can appreciate that paper clips keep our papers in order, but we don't want to think that God is sitting around thinking of ways to make life more convenient for us ;) Ann Voskamp's list has things like that on it - for example: being thankful for 3 things that are white.
Ann Voskamp's list keep us thinking in a positive and appreciative manner. I like that. But I think we can go much deeper in our thankfulness when we think on God and His character and His direct involvement in our lives. I think as we read the Bible and areas where thankfulness was offered, it is so directed at God - not paper clips. C'mon!!!
I would love to see us all keep a different kind of thankfulness list that includes things like:
1. What are we thankful for in the Scripture that we read today?
2. Has God answered a prayer for us today?
3. List a character trait of the Lord that we love and have seen manifested in our lives.
4. How did someone reflect God's love to us today?
This is the kind of list that will give us something of substance to share.
on October 18, 2012
It is good to have gratitude, but the book overdoes it, and the author's words start to sound fake and forced after the first 30 pages or less. Some wording is just downright awkward and difficult to read.
Overlooking many of the smaller theological problems I found in this book, I found two major issues: Panentheism and carnality. Although the author denies she is a pantheist (God is all), she seems to not understand that panentheism (God is in all) is just as wrong. In fact, it's worse because it's more subtle. I have written poetry since a young age and I majored in literature, so I appreciate poetry. But the panentheistic statements in this book are not just poetic language. There are so many panentheistic statements that it was difficult keeping track of them. She states, "True Beauty worship, worship of Creator Beauty Himself," and explains that this is not pantheism. However, this statement by itself is consistent with panentheism.
She then asks if theology is the study of books about God, then is not the study of nature also "the deep study of the Spirit of God?" Well, no, it isn't. The study of nature is the contemplation of the handiwork of God, not of his Spirit.
Voskamp also sees God in "all faces." She asks, "Isn't He the face of all faces?" and continues on that the "face" of the moon, the deer, even "the derelict" are "His countenance that seeps up through the world." She questions, "Do I have eyes to see His face in all things?" Here again, this is equating nature and the faces of people with the face of God. Faith, she asserts, is "a seeking for God in everything" (114). God's word, however, tells us that faith is "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1; see also 2 Cor. 4:18, 5:7).
The second troubling area is the eroticization of God's love for us and our love for God. This seems to be an extension of panentheism. If God is present in creation itself, if we can see or feel God in nature, he is reduced, philosophically speaking, to the vulnerability of material and/or carnal concepts and interpretations.
The final chapter opens with the statement, "I fly to Paris and discover how to make love to God." Even if we know the author does not mean this literally, the term "make love" has almost exclusively a sexual implication throughout our culture. She ties this love to being God's bride and to God as Lover. But individually, we are not brides of God or Christ. The church is the bride of Christ and "bride" is spoken of in the singular, not the plural (Rev. 19:7, 21:9, 22:17; see also Eph. 5:23).
She continues with phrases like "the long embrace," "the entering in," "God as Husband in sacred wedlock, bound together, body and soul, fed by His body," and "mystical love union." I do not want these images in my head. This is not how scripture leads me to think of the Lord or of what it means to be "one in Christ," which biblically is without carnal or erotic implications.
Believe me, what I have quoted above is only a taste of the erotic language. And no, it is not the same as the Song of Solomon, which is inspired scripture. Voskamp is not writing scripture and the Song of Solomon does not bring up the revolting images nor use the words that Voskamp does. The reader may feel like taking a shower at the end of the lurid references to God and Jesus.
Any good in this book is overshadowed by the panentheism and the erotic language about God. I do not recommend it to anyone. Its popularity only reveals the ignorance or disregard of the biblical view of God and nature.
on February 10, 2011
I have been a reader of Ann's blog for about a year and have gained much from her constant reminders to return to gratitude, peace and joy. I thoroughly enjoyed her book with many tears shed along the way. The book is sitting close by where I intend to skim through it, picking out favorite verses and quotes. My gratitude journal is plopped on the kitchen counter, although I am still haven't developed the new habit of writing things down and am mostly noting things in my head. I would give the book five stars for Ann's writing ability and the much needed focus on gratitude for this near terminally ungrateful heart.
However, a couple of things did trouble me. One tiny issue was Ann's over-use of blood & guts & veins analogies. All of life seems to happen for her on some visceral, in the veins sort of level and she tells you so a hundred different but similar ways. Maybe that's a common device in fiction, but as a non-fiction reader, it just seemed too predictable.
Another bigger issue would be the distinction I would draw between God's permissive will V causation of evil that befalls us. Ann *seems* to believe that the bad stuff,ie the evils that come upon us in a fallen world, are straight from God's hand instead of just things He allows. She makes God sound like the sender/giver of the evil. I'm uncertain if that is what she intended.
Finally, I was just really loving the book and then hit the last chapter. Ugh. It just took all the wind out of my sails. Spoiler--it's a chapter about making love to God. I trust she is just using an analogy and it doesn't seem to have bothered the other readers/reviewers, but that was just over the top for me. On the one hand, the Bible is very graphic in Song of Solomon's lover and beloved imagery, but to use near orgasmic, climactic language and to bluntly call her gratitude experience "making love to God" just evokes some weird Eros or Diana image in my head. All I could think was that either she is an incurable romantic to whom I cannot relate OR she has been reading Sex God by Rob Bell or some other post-modern emergent book OR she just recently discovered that sex is a really great thing in some mid-life epiphany and she now wants to talk about it often and much (the book, her blog). *cough* I think she went too far with the analogy. I kept thinking, "Really?! Is she gonna have her Dad read this? Her sons? Her brother? Just wow." I am a big proponent of only wearing in public things you'd want your Grandpa or the Pope to see you in; similarly one should only write what you want *everyone* to read. Is she going to read this aloud to her kids and explain stuff and she's this amazingly bold parent OR is she gonna hide this from her kids till their 18th birthdays? Probably only something I would ponder, but at the risk of sounding like a prude, I am putting it out there.
Additionally, Ann had built a whole book around the idea of experiencing God right where you are in your average everyday world and then in the final chapter she goes and has her ultimate,climactic experience of God on a trip to Paris. It just went against the grain of the "bloom where your planted" idea she had cultivated. It sounded like a reversal in the message to, "Well, actually, you do *have* to go somewhere like Machu Picchu or Patagonia to *really* experience God."
I know this book is probably more memoir than autobiography (and even then her stories are only a vehicle for the message of the book), but I wish she would have told more about some of her experiences. For example, I'd like to know more about how she met her husband and their courtship. Also, she brought up her issue with cutting very briefly and I would like to have known more about that and her way out of it (unless the whole book was about her way out of it). Maybe these and other details of her life will be addressed more fully in a future book.
As a parent currently of 4 teens, I was very relieved by her inclusion of at least a couple of examples of real life family conflict lest we think her family wears wings and halos.
All in all, the heart of the book and the author make it a wonderful read in spite of the above disclaimers.