Thursday, November 10, 2011

Book Review: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

I think the truest test of the power of a book is whether or not it lingers in your mind long after you've turned the last page. And if, in the lingering, it inspires you to change.

Based on that definition, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp is a powder keg in hardback.

I was a little skeptical at first. I mean, keeping a gratitude journal is almost passé. Oprah did it years ago. And we all know we should be thankful.

But Ann's take on thankfulness is unlike any I've heard before.

And her list of 1000 gifts is no mere "I'm thankful for my kids" compilation. It's a journey into seeing each experience through the eyes of grace. Or as the book cover declares, "A dare to live fully, right where you are."

Beginning in the second chapter, she introduces us to the concept of eucharisteo - it's a Greek word that's translated "he gave thanks" and has in its roots the Greek words "charis" and "chara" - grace and joy. From there, she takes us on a poetic journey into how grace, thanksgiving, and joy are intertwined and always available to us.

As a word lover, I found her poetic prose lush and descriptive. But I will confess that there were times when the poetry somewhat clouded the message. When I needed to go back, slow down, re-read, and ponder. Because this is no light read. There are deep questions raised. How do we give thanks for suffering? How do we trust God in the face of pain and loss?

Depending on your theology, you may not agree with all of her conclusions. But you would do well to ask the questions yourself.

For her, the deep questions all began when someone challenged her to make a list - 1000 gifts - and the list changed her life.

Because "the counting of all blessings is ultimately summed up in One. All gratitude is ultimately gratitude for Christ, all remembering a remembrance of Him. For in Him all things were created, are sustained, have their being. Thus Christ is all there is to give thanks for; Christ is all there is to remember. To know how we can count on God, we count graces, but ultimately there is really only One." (p. 155)

That's what makes this listing of gifts unlike any other. Because each one points to the One.

I went out and bought a plain, blue leather journal from Wal-mart. It's huge. It's big enough to capture far more than 1000 gifts. I have this mental picture of a grandchild someday thumbing through it and asking me if I remember what prompted me to write "18. The perfect shoes on clearance."

I probably won't remember by then. But I pray the journal is worn, faded, and full of reminders of the love-notes my Abba sends me every day.


Tammie said...

I'm half way through this book and loving it. I will be giving away a copy on my blog next week!