Book Review: One Thousand Gifts

Review by Karin Taylor

In One Thousand Gifts, the author grapples with the age-old question: How do I trust God and walk in faith when bad things happen to good people? Ann Voskamp records her struggle to trust God with life’s tragedies and find joy in giving grace to others.

One of the most helpful steps for her is a surprisingly simple challenge from a friend: record 1,000 gifts from God. As Ann writes her list of gifts—such as sunlight streaming through a window, a full moon, clothes for the family—and as she hangs up too many loads of laundry and lines up footwear for the umpteenth time, she discovers a deep well of gratitude.

I personally find the book down-to-earth and thought-provoking. For me, the writing style is a bit hard to read, and at the end the author describes being “one in Christ” with disturbing, racy imagery. Yet I appreciate her call to accept that we cannot understand much of life’s brokenness: We must walk by faith and find joy by trusting God, extending grace and being grateful.

Some friends and I have started our lists of 1,000 gifts and found the discipline good.

Karin Taylor serves as the mission/outreach coordinator at Santa Margarita (Calif.) Community Church (EFCA).

Review by Heather Mitchell

Raw. Startling. Poetic. Grace-filled. As I began reading One Thousand Gifts, I knew I would have to send it to my sister. We share everything we find fascinating and beautiful. Partway through, however, I changed my mind.

You know how, in the summer, the sun prickles your skin with its heat? If, seeking relief, you then dive into a clear, cold mountain lake, you’ll break the surface gasping and wide-eyed with shock but feeling brilliantly alive and refreshed. One Thousand Gifts leaves me gasping. Should I toss my unsuspecting sister into the lake?

Ann Voskamp writes: “The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be—unbelievably—possible!”

So begins the challenge to name one thousand blessings.

“I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and stars that rise and rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives.”

I’m thinking again. I wonder how fast I can ship this book to my sister?

Heather Mitchell is a pastor’s wife, homeschooling mom of four and church librarian at Lanse (Pa.) EFC.

Review by Dan Benson

One Thousand Gifts may be one of the best-read books in America, judging by the number of my friends who have read it, all of whom loved it, and the fact that it was on the New York Times bestseller list for months.

I’m thankful for One Thousand Gifts because it helped me refocus on the everyday blessings and the minute (small) minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour surprises that God brings my way. And for the recurring gifts that make my life as full as it is.

While I didn’t start my own written list of gifts, I did begin noting them mentally and was more attuned to their happening. It helped me slow down and be more mindful of eucharisteo, exemplified by Jesus, who “gave thanks.”

So why am I not as excited about this book as many others are? Well, one reason is perhaps that I find it difficult to identify with many of her “gifts” or how she encounters them. There’s a lot about doing laundry, cooking, baking, cleaning and child raising on a daily basis and the feelings they elicit. Perhaps I would have appreciated hearing about giftings in the life of The Farmer (how she refers to her husband).

The other reason is that the author uses a poetic, metaphor-laden writing style that I found cumbersome. Consequently, I didn’t find this to be an easy read.

The point is an easy one to grasp; “slow down and smell the roses” would be one way of putting it. But it’s a worthwhile point to remember, and by inviting us into the dailyness of her life, Ann Voskamp does an artful job reminding us of it.

Dan Benson is a journalist and a member of Friedens EFC in Port Washington, Wis. His many gifts include his wife, Vicki, and their four children.

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