This past week I read "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. The black and white message is in the word, eucharisteo (Gk. "thanksgiving", with the root word, charis, meaning "grace", and its derivative, chara, "joy"); the underlying message is in the life lived to the full even in the most ordinary . . . the life characterized by thankfulness, infused with  joy, and grounded in grace. The life lived in the present.

Ann's journey began with a friend's dare to write down "a list of a thousand things I love", which, as Ann writes, is more accurately "a dare to name all the ways that God loves me".
"When I realize that it is not God who is in my debt, but I who am in His great debt, then doesn't all become gift? For He might not have."
"To name a thing is to manifest the meaning and value God gave it, to know it as coming from God to to know its place and function within the cosmos created by God. To name a thing, in other words, is to bless God for it and in it."
       ~ Alexander Schmemann
In a lilting style filled with hyphenated words and adjectives and adverbs, Ann writes with a transparency that reveals life in its grittiness and imperfection, and reveals life too in its moments of perfection, in its simple pleasures, in the beauty of the mundane . . . light falling on dusty wood floors, color spectrums visible in soap bubbles in a sink full of dishes, children playing in the backyard, a full moon . . . and it is thus in eucharisteo, joy and thanksgiving and grace, that life is lived to the full. I appreciated Ann's honesty in her writing, as well as her incorporation of Scripture and different quotes. I also found her emphasis on practice and verbs, as actions versus feelings, refreshing: eucharisteo is a process, a habit that must be formed, and Ann invites readers to find ways to intentionally live thankfully and joyfully.
"When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows."

Rather than summarize, I decided to simply include Ann's words, and related quotes, on various periphery topics throughout "One Thousand Gifts" that I found interesting or memorable, as follows:

On time . . . 
"When I'm present, I meet I AM, the very presence of a present God. In His embrace, time loses all sense of speed and stress and and space and stands so still and ... holy."

On seeing God . . .
"Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God."
       ~ A.W. Tozer
On trust . . .
"Belief in God has to be more than mental assent, more than a cliched exercise in cognition. Even the demons believe (James 2:19). What is saving belief if it isn't the radical dare to wholly trust?"
"Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism. [...] Perhaps the opposite of faith is not doubt. Perhaps the opposite of faith is fear. To lack faith perhaps isn't as much an intellectual disbelief in the existence of God as fear and distrust that there is a good God."
"When bridges seem to give way, we fall into Christ's safe arms, true bridge, and not into hopelessness. It is safe to trust! We can be too weak to go on because His strength is made perfect in utter brokenness and nail-pierced hands help up. It is safe to trust! We can give thanks in everything because there's a good God leading, working all things into good. It is safe to trust! The million bridges behind us may seem flattened to the earthly eye, but all bridges ultimately hold, fastened by nails. It is safe to trust."
"Fear thinks God is finite..."
On "going lower" . . . 
"God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us."
      ~ Martin Luther
"How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it."
      ~ G.K. Chesterton
"Awe ignites joy because it makes us bend the knee [...] and we are in deepest happiness in the posture of grateful worship. Because the God-likeness within our smallness speaks to Father-God in His magnificence."
"I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the easier we should reach them. I find now that God's gifts are on shelves on beneath the other, and that it is not a question of growing taller, but of stooping lower, and that we have to go down, always down to get His best gifts."
      ~ F.B. Meyer
"Joy is God and God is joy and joy doesn't negate all other emotions--joy transcends all other emotions."
"Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of will. And I can empty. I can empty because counting His graces has awakened me to how He cherishes me, holds me, passionately values me. I can empty because I am full of His love. I can trust. I can let go."
"True humility is self-smallness to the point of 'blessed self-forgetfulness' . . ."
"This is the way a body and a mouth say thank you: They will be done." (Luke 1:38, 22:42)
On giving grace away . . .
"Communion, by necessity, always leads us to community."
"The work we do is only our love for Jesus in action."
      ~ Mother Teresa
"God extravagantly pays back everything we give away and exactly in the currency that is not of this world but the one we yearn for: Joy in Him."
Clearly, there was a lot in "One Thousand Gifts" that resonated with me in some way, whether minimally or on a deeper level. I really did not have any major concerns with the content of "One Thousand Gifts" up until the very last chapter, in which Ann writes that the "climax" of eucharisteo is "making love" to God, more generally asserting the view (based on verses that name Christ the "Bridegroom", for instance) that our relationship with Christ is romantic and even sexual, as is His "pursuit" of us. I was quite disappointed and turned off to find such content in the concluding chapter of this book. I strongly disagree with this view on a whole and do not think it Biblical, or healthy.

Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts" is certainly interesting, thoughtful, and even inspiring. Her discussion of eucharisteo, thanksgiving and joy and grace, as central to "liv[ing] fully right where you are" and related to other areas of our Christian walk is lively, honest, and challenging. How will I begin to live out eucharisteo? I think journaling "a list of a thousand things I love" would be a good place to start. As Ann writes:
"This writing it down--it is sort of like unwrapping love."

No comments :

Post a Comment