Book Review: One Thousand Gifts

One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp, Zondervan 2010, 239 pages, hardcover.Voskamp-one-thousand-gifts

  • Critical read
  • Must read
  • Good read
  • Read if you want
  • Read something else

Why read this book? I am a believer in the idea that there is little in our lives that is random.  Our God is at work in the most minute of details.  When a friend loaned me his well-worn, heavily annotated copy, I did not hesitate to begin reading it.  How I came by this book was an experience of the grace of God as described in the book itself.

I am a consistent reader of non-fiction books, and often have two books in process at a time.  This book jumped to the head of the line and tabled the other book I was reading at the time.  It is one of the very few books that so engaged me that I struggled to stay on task with my daily work due to urges to go read more of it.

The themes of the book are incredibly important to understanding the work of our God in our daily living, a greater awareness of our God’s grace in everyday events, and a deeper sense of gratitude toward Him.  Those themes include the following:

  • Grace, the power of God to thrive and overcome, is continually flowing our way in the smallest to the largest of ways.
  • Our lack of spiritual progress is most often tied to our self-preoccupation and a low awareness of God’s grace abundantly delivered every day.  So we lack gratitude toward Him for it.
  • We each need to come to the point of brokenness over our self-life so that we might be consumed by the presence of our God in our lives. This is something He seeks to do by His grace.
  • The result will be the exponential increase of our faith in our God to always come through in us.
  • Our response will be an emptying of ourselves, the losing of our own lives so that we might find His life fully in us.
  • The result of this emptying will be a deeper level of intimacy and communion with our God Who lives in union with us.

The Point: It is harmful to us to continue in a life religiosity, unaware of the daily outpouring of grace upon us, and ignorant of the intimacy and communion our God desires for us.  It is for this intimate union that our God redeemed us by the blood of Jesus and sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within us.  When we begin to notice the steady raining of grace He pours out into our lives, we are drawn toward that union relationship of intimate communion.  We begin to live the life of God, and not our own lives any longer.

The Impact:  This book tied together many of the themes my God has been weaving into my relationship with Himself over span of my adult life, and especially over the last five years.  Voskamp reinforces the New Covenant life we have in Christ by His Spirit in us.  She summarizes the meaning of our life in union with our God in a clear, succinct, and eloquently poetic manner.

Allow mVoskamp 2e to expand on the eloquently poetic part.  Voskamp is a prose poet, a wizard with words.  Her writing style is not easy, but it is not hard, either.  Instead, her writing is quite different and above all, artistic.  She paints words into images, at times brash and almost urgent while at other times deep, slow in their focus on detail and beauty.  A Godly mindfulness is one of the points Voskamp explores in the book, and reading her words is a practicum in mindful, present-in-the-moment reading.  I found myself at times stopping to drink in the broad sweep of a paragraph, and at other times to dwell on the minute detail of her descriptions.  I know people who are true wordsmiths (I am a word apprentice by comparison), but I found Voskamp to be a cut above.  Maybe two cuts; she is poetic in writing prose, a true wizard with her use of words.

Quotes:  From pages 106-107, in describing a life-changing encounter with the glory of God while watching the moon rising while standing in a field of wheat:

“An arrow of geese catch the moon before I do, black silhouettes shooting her through.  I run harder. The flock lifts her higher into night coming down, lonely cries heralding the coming autumn.  They pierce me through.  There at our fence line where our wheat field gives way to foreign land, I gasp to inhale, crumple to earth.  The moon on geese wings climbs.

I am of terra; they are of heavens.  I’ve only come to witness.

Is this why I’ve come?

The weight of all this stark beauty crushes lungs.  Mine burn.

I had it written down after I read it, that I might hope to remember it: the Hebrew word used throughout Scripture to describe God’s glory, kabod, is derived from the root word meaning “heaviness.”

Dusk and all the arching dome and the field and the great-bellied moon, it all heaves, heavy with the glory.  I heave to breathe: the whole earth is full of His glory.  Sky, land, and sea, heavy and saturated with God – why do I always forget?

And later she continues,

“God’s glory rains down, weighs down earth’s tented heights, and grace tears through, ripping sky canvas and me clear open.  Everywhere windows and gates, and I did not know it.  No, I have known it and I have forgotten it and I remember it again.

The weight of God’s glory, not illusory or ephemeral, but daily and everywhere, punctures earth’s lid and heaven falls through the holes.  I kneel in wheat, moonstruck.”

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  If you are seeking the deeper, daily, spontaneous, less pre-packaged experience of a life given over to the glory and grace of our God, to true union with Him, you must meet God in the ways Voskamp describes.  I have had similar experiences and in the best way possible they have wrecked me in order that God might have full reign and freedom to work by His grace in my life.  Voskamp is writing toward this glorious wrecking.

Images via Pinterest.

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