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Friday, January 24, 2014

"One Thousand Gifts" (Ann Voskamp)

TITLE: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
AUTHOR: Ann Voskamp
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011, (240 pages).

One word describes this book: Beautiful.  Despite ushering readers through her moment of grief in losing her sister, author Ann Voskamp does not rush to force any recovery toward that conventional "normal" we all seek. Instead, she allows the grief to linger and her emotions to meander through the crevices of her inmost being. She navigates through tears. She probes the fears. She asks the questions about life and finds herself seeing life through paradoxes. How can one live fully in the midst of deadening emptiness? What is the point of living as one observes the effects of dying? Is it possible to experience joy in the midst of sorrow? For Voskamp, the answer is emphatically YES through the practice of "eucharisteo," the Greek word for Thanksgiving. This one word is the key that unlocks a thousand gifts. This one word changes one's perspective of life. This one word reminds us less of what we do not have and more of what we already have. This is exactly what Voskamp describes, starting with items inside her house, familiar images of loved ones, simple things from moonlight to sunlight, simple appreciation of time, and various spiritual reflections to mine the ordinary to uncover the extraordinary gifts God has given. Though the author does not write down the entire list of thousand gifts, by the time she reaches #245, I was sold.

There are many spiritual lessons in the book. What makes this book special is not how it tells us what to do, but how it invites us to tell ourselves what we ought to do. Like the reflection on time in which God has given us. Have we thought about how we can give this time in dedication back to God? Is that not how love continues to flourish and flow? After all, money stuck with one person cannot be used to benefit others until it moves and circulates around society. For if we learn to practise giving and freely receiving, and learning to pass it on, thanksgiving will be like the fresh flow of living waters that can flow unimpeded from streams to river; from rivers to seas; from seas to oceans. God evaporates them to the clouds and rains them down on the mountain and the land. Tied closely with Thanksgiving is Grace, which Voskamp spends time describing, deliberating, and disbursing grace. With each step of thanksgiving and the dance of grace, one gradually enters into a space that allows a profound anticipation of the Presence of God. As rush disappears, God appears. One learns trust. One cultivates wakefulness to the things of God. One gives thanks.

As Voskamp begins with moments of grief, she ends with claims of joy. Most of all, she has reminded us once again that a thousand gifts are available for anyone of us, if we are willing to use the keys of "eucharisteo" and grace. Voskamp has given us a gift. How we receive it and use it is very much up to us.

This is definitely a book to treasure and to keep. It is definitely worth more than a thousand gifts.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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