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Customer Review

4,515 of 4,737 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Message Gets Lost in the Words, February 22, 2011
This review is from: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are (Hardcover)
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.
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Showing 1-10 of 271 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 23, 2011 7:59:11 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 23, 2011 8:00:21 AM PST
Thank you for your review! Especially the excerpt. I've had this book on my watch-list since getting a kindle, but haven't had time to look too deeply at reviews yet and yours caught my eye today. Honestly, I found myself having a very difficult time reading the short passage you posted. Now, understand, Cat in the Hat is playing in the background, but that is my life! There is always something going on, and if I have to work to hard too find the message in what I'm reading, I will get frustrated and not read it. It's the season I'm in right now - so, I think this one will stay on my watch-list for awhile longer. There may come a time that I have the quiet and solitude that I can drink it all when the kids are all in school! I was going to spend my amazon credits...for now, I'll keep looking :) Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 23, 2011 8:39:33 AM PST
The basic message of the book is to seek God's grace and presence in the little daily things and not just the biggies, and be thankful for every one. By the time you get to 1000 you'll definitely know that His grace is present every day and will have trained yourself to look for it.

I can relate to your season of life having raised four kids. I'm at the other side of that season...menopause! Unfortunately at this stage the concentration factor doesn't get any better. lol

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 23, 2011 8:55:32 AM PST
LOL, awe, man! And I was hoping after raising my four I'd regain some of the memory and concentration back! But you've given me an idea of starting a journal - I don't have much time to really write in a journal, but I have a little notebook that I think I'll take the time to # to 1000 - then I'll just have to jot down the things...little, big and everything in between - that I'm thankful for during my days - it will teach me to be looking for Him in my days! And be a good thing to be able to look back on when I'm discouraged...which every mother of babies to teens will get from time to time! And mine range from cradle to teen, with an adolescent and toddler in between. Again, thank you for your review, for responding and the idea of my 1000 Thanks Journal!!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 23, 2011 9:28:35 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Feb 23, 2011 9:28:57 AM PST]

Posted on Feb 28, 2011 7:49:20 AM PST
Snowbound says:
I am savoring the book but it is not for everyone. This is a very fair review, thoughtfully and graciously written. It adds some balance to all of the five-star reviews, which I think is good.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 28, 2011 8:02:50 AM PST
Thank you for saying so. I wanted it to be a fair and honest opinion of the book without criticizing the author as a person.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 11, 2011 4:13:03 PM PST
Jeanna M says:
I am so glad someone feels the same as I do. I was beginning to think that it was just over my head. But then I knew it wasn't and that it was the style. I have been afraid to voice my opinion for all over the web people are doing nothing but singing praises about this book. I have to say that the message of the book is very good but like you I feel that it gets lost in the structure of it all.
This is not saying anything bad about the author or book, just that it is not for everyone.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 11, 2011 7:58:49 PM PST
I agree that the style isn't for everyone. It was a struggle for me to get through it even though I tried to see past the wording to the message the author was trying to convey. Thanks for your comments.

Posted on Mar 12, 2011 6:25:14 PM PST
ke says:
Could you please expand on the comment in your review about the contemplative/emergent church references? I am wary of this movement and would like to know what influence of it you see in her book.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2011 8:33:32 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 13, 2011 9:22:06 AM PDT
I no longer have my copy of this book so I can't give you exact pages, but she made reference to "mystical union" with God, and quotes known mystics and those of the contemplative movement such as Brother Lawrence, Henry Nouwen, and Dallas Willard, to name a few. There are also some references that the emergent church embraces that are from the universal reconcilliation theology that says all people are automatically saved because of what Jesus did on the personal decision to acknowledge him as God and savior is needed, no confession of sin. From Ann's book: "The good news is that all those living in the land of shadow of death have been birthed into new life, that the transfiguration of a suffering world has already begun." That's a wide, sweeping statement that is a common teaching in the emergent church.

Just so anyone reading this understands, I won't get drawn into debate over this here because there is too much to cover and this isn't the forum for such things. What I've said in the review is simply my opinion of the book and why I didn't like it much and won't recommend it to others. I encourage any Christian to simply be discerning as they read this or any book and not jump on the latest popular speaker's or author's words as gospel without being willing to test what they say against what God says in His word.
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