One Thousand Gifts

One Thousand Gifts

A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

by Ann Voskamp
Publisher: Zondervan
Hardcover, 240 pages
Price: $18.99
Used Price: $8.00 (2 in stock) Condition Policy

One Thousand Gifts is proof that even people who work for Hallmark can write good poetry. Ann Voskamp's book has paragraphs and isn't metrical, but her command of the language is closer to singing than mere prose. Her fundamental question, How do we live fully so we are fully ready to die?, leads her to reflect on her own life, God's promises, and the meaning of contentment and gratitude.

Her song ranges freely between funeral dirge and generous hymn, between thoughts on her baby sister's death to awe at the moon, the stars, the entire cosmos. She's had her share of trouble (death, cancer, frustration), but her desire for God's grace (and acceptance of it in every form it appears) lead her not to despair but to humble thanksgiving.

Women will probably appreciate Voskamp's perspective more than men, but this book is for everybody. Life is not merely a disaster to which God abandons us—it is His gift to us, His love song to us, His blessing. Learning to recognize and enjoy that blessing is one of our principle tasks as people, a task to which we are specially suited as followers of Jesus Christ.

In One Thousand Gifts, theology and life and poetry are found all together, just as we encounter them every day. Voskamp dispenses wisdom almost carelessly, as when she says, The humble live surprised. The humble live by joy., as though everyone knew that and could articulate the thought in exactly the same way. But we can't all articulate such simple profundities just so, which is why we need books like this.

There are few moments when this book is anything less than visceral, concrete. Blood and the Eucharistic elements are as frequently described as birds and sunshine and rain. We are shown the beauty and the grace around us rather than just told that it is there. It's like a nature walk or a sightseeing tour of God's goodness, a thing altogether perfect in itself and worth every second of our attention.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating:
FLAWS: Mystical undertones
Summary: Voskamp points us to all that we have to be thankful for, but goes overboard in her romantic attitudes toward Jesus.

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  Beautiful, Painful, Convicting
Miss Pickwickian of NW Oregon, 3/30/2012
Do not expect a topical study on thankfulness. That's what I thought I was starting. Instead think memoir meets freestyle poetry, theology, and ramble all generally focused on living a life of daily thanksgiving.

Ann Voskamp's prose is sometimes riveting, lyrical, soaring, but generally painful as she goes over difficult events in her life. Sometimes there is a sentence that could stand as a poem, but that becomes less frequent as the book progresses. Her constant adjectives and adverbs trailing as after thoughts in her sentences became distracting and lurching.

"One Thousand Gifts" is challenging, truly a dare to repent of anger, bitterness, discontent, questioning, and depression without trivializing their reality and the pain they create. Even if her flowery descriptions and personality aren't your style, we all need to hear this stuff. Ideas must take on skin and turn into vibrant action. Faith is, after all, living a life full of thankfulness. And many of us are living as practical atheists. At least I don't think I'm standing alone...

Chapter 8 was particularly convicting for me starting from the first sentence... "God and I, we've got trust issues." Trust is work. Intentional and focused. Anything else is the notion that God's love ends. Constant gratitude builds up the muscles of trust.

There were portions I wanted to take and revel in for hours while others I had to trudge through. Particularly the last chapter. I think she gets a little off with her Communion analogies near the end. I think the book would have been stronger if she'd left most of the last chapter out except for a few paragraphs. It took me almost as long to read it as the rest of the book put together.

I think because of its memoir nature she does not build on ideas as strongly as she could. Although she points out very good and different aspects, I felt like much of the book was hammering her first thoughts over and over again. Her thoughts were good enough that it worked, and I needed to hear them over and over again, but sometimes I'd set it down wanting something more.

This is one person's journey on how she came to see the need and depth and joy of thanksgiving in all of life. It is not the same for everyone. It will look different. And this story won't appeal to some. But I think we can all learn a lot from it.

She uses a beautiful scattering of quotes from St. Augustine, G. K. Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis, among many other more obscure writers. It gives fresh perspectives and an eager, and humble flavor. While the quotes she uses are powerful, a few of the writers are much more well known for their heretical statements.

I have definitely been blessed by this book. And I am thankful! :-)

A snippet from the first chapter-

"...I wonder too...if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see.
To see through to God.
That that which tears open our souls, those holes that platter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty of beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave."