Friday, December 9, 2011

Book Review: One Thousand Gifts

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

In this book, Ms. Voskamp wonders at the beginning of this book if there could be something, some way, to greater joy in life? She finds eucharisteo, "he gave thanks" in the original Greek and meditates on it, sharing her thoughts and impressions with the reader in a style that is almost stream of consciousness.

First, you must be prepared, the first chapter is extremely difficult to read. In fact, I had to set it aside twice, taking months to get through that first chapter. Ms. Voskamp shares tragedy from her own life and that of her brother-in-law's to prepare us for this story. She is trying to experience the joy she believes is at the heart of a Christian life but struggles against the sorrows of life.
That has always been the goal of the fullest life--joy. And my life knew exactly how elusive that slippery three-letter work, joy, can be....I could tell how my whole being responded to that one word. I longed for more life, for more holy joy.
First we are thankful, then we receive, perceive, realize the miracle.

The book is the tale of a journey. She invites us to share in the journey, showing how a bold decision to name one thousand gifts carries her far from the simple idea of being thankful for the good and beautiful in every moment of our lives. Living a life with room for holy joy involves being thankful for the miracles that God may perform, and thankful when He does not. It means thanking and praising God for his own sake, because he is worthy of our praise and worship, without regard for our own hardships or even because of our own hardships.

She gives some wonderful writing in the book:
I don't really want more time; I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long, time to give You glory and rest deep and sing joy and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded, pressed, driven, or wild to get it all done--yesterday. In a world with cows to buy and fields to see and work to do, in the beep and blink of the twenty-first century, with its "live in the moment" buzz phrase that none of the whirl-weary seem to know how to do, who actually knows how to take time and live with soul and body and God all in sync? To have the time to grab the jacket off the hook and time to go out to all air and sky and green and time to wonder at all of them in all this light, this time refracting in prism.
I just want time to do my one life well.
Eventually, she writes:
What in the world, in all this world, is grace?
I can say it certain now: All is grace.
I see through the woods of the world: God is always good and I am always loved.
God is always good and I am always loved.
Everything is eucharisteo.
I already posted on my favorite chapter (empty to fill) and really feel it was the highlight of a wonderful, thought-provoking book. (It was chapter ten, by the way, despite the 8 in the post title.) Taking time to see the gifts God has bestowed should be a part of our daily life. Ms. Voskamp encourages us to find the gifts throughout the day, as we should. Our world is imperfect, thanks to Adam and Eve's sins, but it is still a good world. Concentrating on the gifts, at the very least, distracts us from the annoyances. On the best days, it brings us joy and helps us to feel close to God. My own reasons to be thankful are less poetic than the author's, but they are no less valid.

However...the writing can be as distracting as it is beautiful. Sometimes I found my thoughts drifting as I read because the language wandered. Kansas Dad tried to read a little of it and immediately tossed it aside, though the book was not in any way written for men.

Also, I found the last chapter a little disturbing. The author seems to use the language of physical intimacy to describe her relationship with Jesus. I don't think that's what Scripture intends. As a Catholic, I have the benefit of physically receiving Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament at each and every Mass. I think this final chapter would have been very different if Ms. Voskamp had experienced Holy Communion in the way Catholics do. She quotes and reads a great variety of authors, including Catholics, but she certainly doesn't understand the sacrament as we do.

Overall, I found this book enlightening and uplifting. I recommend it, though you may want to borrow a copy or read an excerpt first to see if you enjoy her style (or you could check out her blog). Feel free to skip the last chapter.

4 comments:

  1. My biggest beef with the whole book was it simply blew my mind how she could write all that and not be Catholic or feel called to convert. Of all the people who read themselves into the Church, I am very surprised she didn't.

    But overall, I did think it was a wonderful, uplifting and encouraging book. Glad you liked it too.

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  2. Yeah, that jump to Catholic from Protestant is a big one for some people, so big that many of them never even contemplate such a move. She seemed to mainly read older Catholic books. Maybe we should send her some contemporary ones on the Eucharist. ;-)

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  3. Something I read on her website led me to believe that she's not a huge fan of people associating her with Catholicism. But maybe I misinterpreted it. Anyways...

    By the way, we're really enjoying that Advent CD I mentioned.

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