Book review: ‘One Thousand Gifts’ by Ann Voskamp

ann-voskampI recently finished reading Ann Voskamp’s book ‘One Thousand Gifts’. A book that has frustrated, delighted, and, ultimately, blessed me. 

To start off with, I should say that this book is verrry American. Even though Ann is Canadian. But whatever. The style takes some getting used to. If you are like me, and enjoy proper grammar and sentence structure, you might struggle at first. Sometimes I had to read a sentence or paragraph a few times just to understand what it was saying. There are some extremely long sentences in there. And some very short ones. Actually, this is not like any other Christian book I’ve ever read. It’s dense, but not in a theological or intellectual way. It reads like a novel, or a diary, with pockets of theological discussion here and there, and truths from the Bible woven into the fabric of the writing. It’s pretty clever, actually, and also very real. As if Ann were just speaking to her reader, telling how she discovered ‘an emptier, fuller life’ (p. 23).

Ann’s essential point is that thanksgiving is fundamental to a full and joyful life as  Christian. I could pick so many great quotes from this book, but this one from early on in the book summarises it well:

We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks.

Because how else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to his grace. (p 39.)

In this book we follow Ann’s journey from a person downtrodden by ungratefulness, fear, negativity, mistrust, anxiety, and a multitude of scarring experiences, to a person who grasps grace to its full extent and throws herself into a life of gratitude. Ann uses the word eucharisteo throughout to describe a thanksgiving that lies at the heart of true and joyful communion with God.

This book touches on some difficult subjects as it explores what it means to be thankful in all circumstances. But ultimately, Ann is convincing when she argues that thanksgiving can be a part of every event in life.

My reading of this book coincided with our church’s sermon series on Galatians. As we’ve worked through that epistle, the message has consistently been that there is nothing that we can do to work towards our salvation, but Jesus has won it all. ‘Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?’ (Gal. 3:2, 3 ESV). Sometimes in the Christian life we feel downtrodden, dejected, and defeated. Hearing sermons on Galatians and reading Ann’s book has led me to the conclusion that the antidote for a works-based approach to the Christian life and the resulting burn-out is… gratitude! We don’t need to try to earn our salvation by forcing ourselves to do good works, to serve, or to improve ourselves. We just need to say ‘thank you’ to God for what he has already done.

I highly recommend Ann’s book and will be reading it again in the near future. Perhaps I’ll find some of those tricky sentences easier the second time around! I will make notes too, which is rare for me, but I feel there is so much truth and beauty in this book, that it is worth letting its message sink deeper and deeper.

Ann also blogs at http://www.aholyexperience.com/.

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