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One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are Hardcover – January 26, 2011
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Ann Voskamp invites us to slow down, to learn how to live the full life of eucharisteo (with grace, thanksgiving, joy) regardless of circumstances. With lovely word pictures inspired by everyday life in her family and on her farm, she writes about her struggle to live joyfully amid sin and sorrow and suffering. (WORLD Magazine)
From the Back Cover
Just like you, Ann Voskamp hungers to live her one life well. Forget the bucket lists that have us escaping our everyday lives for exotic experiences. 'How, ' Ann wondered, 'do we find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties? What does a life of gratitude look like when your days are gritty, long, and sometimes dark? What is God providing here and now?' In One Thousand Gifts, Ann invites you to embrace everyday blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God's gifts. As Ann discovered, when we give thanks, we find ourselves wildly loved by God. In expressing gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we've always wanted---a life we can take, give thanks for, and break for others. Let Ann's beautiful, heart-aching stories of the everyday give you a way of seeing that opens your eyes to thanksgiving, a way of being present to God that makes you deeply happy, and a way of living so you are not afraid to die. Come feast at the table of joy.
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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.
The book has more periods per square inch than most books I've read. As a person in a hurry, the many periods of punctuation came like speed bumps, forcing me to slow down. When I did, I found a gift.
Writers do their best thinking with a pen, and One Thousand Gifts reveals Ann Voskamp as a deep thinker. She writes her book around the theme gleaned from Greek verb, euchartiseo, a term that means "to give thanks." She introduces the theme early and repeats it in every chapter--so much so that you can open the book anywhere and be blessed. The book could be half as long and still as profound.
One Thousand Gifts reminds us that contentment begins and continues by giving thanks for the blessings right in front of you. Ann did this by writing a list of 1000 "gifts" from daily life for which she is thankful.
Writing the list is a wonderful idea because it causes you to constantly look for new additions for the list. This daily assignment shapes a renewed mind, habitually searching life for reasons to thank God instead of for excuses to complain.
From the everyday context of mothering, Ann gives us the simple principle that the life we're looking for is right in front of us--right where we are.
There are thousands of gifts from God if we will only insert many more periods in the sentences of each day.
She is exploring some of the most personal and deepest challenges we as Christians face in our relationship with God.
For those of you who are also poets and writers at heart, don't be surprised if this gusher of inspiration flows from you once you start reading this!
I find myself pausing and reflecting on every page, tasting her perspective of God and the world. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me personally and I am now more emboldened than ever to write my down my own One Thousand Gifts!
I would say it would be valuable to read the first few pages to make sure that her style is something you like.
If you are into more by-the-numbers step-by-step expository style writing, you may not be able to flow with her. This is more inspirational poetry to me, not scriptural exposition. This will appeal to right brain rather than your left.
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Thanks to God for making Himself transparent thru her !