One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp began as something of a teasing dare: a friend had named one hundred things she loved and asked Ann if she could name 1,000. Ann began keeping a notebook open in her kitchen to record things she was thankful for, little dreaming how it would impact her life.
But this is no Pollyanna-ish “glad game.” Ann discusses finding joy even through loss and pain and circumstance that don’t make sense and childish skirmishes. And giving thanks, she finds, does more than engender gratitude and praise to God, though that’s plenty: it also wards off things like anxiety, because when we’re in the habit of giving thanks, we’re in the habit of seeing evidence of God’s love and care all around us.
Ann’s writing style here is much the same as it is on her blog, and it is hard to know how to describe it: it has a poetic quality to it, somewhat ethereal, seemingly stream-of-consciousness, though it is not random: there is definite movement and flow toward a purpose and end. And it’s not fluff, for there is serious study underneath. My own writing style is more practical and straightforward: neither is right or wrong, better or worse, they’re just different, and my different way of thinking left me feeling a little lost sometimes, but other times I was moved to tears or touched to the core.
I wish I had jotted down notes from the main points in each chapter. Some of the main ones are repeated and easy to take with you from the book. But here are some quotes that I marked:
Daily discipline is the door to full freedom, and the discipline to count to one thousand gave way to the freedom of wonder…(p. 84)
Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don’t numb themselves to really living. (p. 84).
Can it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God? (p 88).
I am beset by chronic soul amnesia. I am empty of truth and need the refilling. I need come every day — bend, clutch, and remember — for who can gather the manna but once, hoarding, and store away sustenance in the mind for all of the living? (p. 106).
How do you open the eyes to see how to take the daily, domestic, workday vortex and invert it into the dome of an everyday cathedral? (p. 120-121).
Peace can shatter faster than glass (p. 174).
My own wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy (p. 178).
I wouldn’t agree with every little theological point, but that could probably be said of many books that I read, and I am not going to dissect the differences here. I will just mention a couple of things, though.
In the last chapter, titled “The Joy of Intimacy,” Ann uses what could be called sexually charged language to describe intimacy with God, such as, “I fly to Paris and discover how to make love to God” (p. 201) and “To know Him the way Adam knew Eve. Spirit skin to spirit skin” (p. 217)…and others I am not comfortable putting here. I know how she means it: she doesn’t mean anything physical or inappropriate: she’s merely discussing spiritually unfettered union and communion. There are Bible passages that speak of God as a husband, the church is called the Bride of Christ, and the last few verses of Ephesians 5 say that the marriage union is symbolic of that between Christ and the church. But still…it’s jarringly graphic, and sadly, I think a stumblingblock to many readers: some have only discussed that chapter on their blogs, and from comments there and on various book reviews, some people have laid aside the book after coming to or hearing about those passages. Personally I wouldn’t lay aside the whole book because of those references, but I would just say read cautiously and with discernment, as we should with any book. (Update: Ann comments on her use of language in this chapter in the second comment here.)
Another disturbing thing to me was a quote from Mother Teresa — not the quote itself but the regarding of her as a spiritual authority, which I don’t believe her to be for these reasons. I don’t want to offend my Catholic friends, but as I have said before, a person is not saved by or because of their denomination: we’re saved by grace through faith in Christ alone.
For these and other reasons, I couldn’t endorse the book 100%, but I did benefit from it in many ways.
There is a book club discussing this book at bloom (in) courage where two other ladies discuss the individual chapters with Ann. The videos are long, about 10-12 minutes for each chapter, and I’ve only watched five or six of them. Some of the discussions are more helpful than others, but they did help to relate to Ann better, hearing her talk in everyday language.
A little taste of the book and it’s style can be seen here in its trailer:
(See also Tim Challies’ review here.)
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)