As I sit down to write this report I'm really not sure where to begin. This book is amazing. Life changing. Reading it is like joining Ann Voscamp in a treasure hunt to find the heart of God.
One Thousand Gifts is a love story. It follows God as he gently woos Ann to Him, and as the story unfolds you realize God isn't just wooing her--he's wooing you.
Ann begins her story with her first memory--that of her younger sister being crushed in a terrible car accident. After that experience she, along with her entire family, wrote off God. How could a good God allow an innocent child, barely even toddling, such a cruel, accidental death? The darkness covered Ann as she refused to acknowledge God in her life.
Then a friend "happened" (and I use that word as the Bible uses it in Ruth, Ruth "happened" to glean in boaz's field, as if chance, instead of the hand of God, could orchestrate something so life-changing) to challenge Ann to list 1000 gifts that God gave. Ann wasn't one to pass up a challenge, so she started her list unaware that this simple action would become the catalyst God used in her life to knit her heart to Him.
The key word in this book is Eucharisto. I'll quote from the book to explain the word (Ann says it so much better than I can :-) ).
"Eucharisto, thanksgiving, envelops the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning "joy." Joy. Ah... yes. I might be needing me some of that. That might be what the quest for more is all about--that which Augustine claimed, "Without exception...all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is, joy." [...]
A triplet of stars, a constellation in the black.
A threefold cord that might hold a life? Offer a way up into the fullest life?
Grace, thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisto.
A Greek word... that might make meaning of everything?
This book was amazing. It was challenging--and, in a way, scary. Ann starts with counting the gifts that God gives, the beautiful, precious moments that fill each day brimfull. But then, as she grows, she realizes that we are given no right to pick and choose which moments we deem as "good" and which we deem as "bad" when God Himself is the one who gives everything. She calls these moments, when we must look at something "bad" and still thank God for it, "Hard Eucharisto." Her first lesson in hard eucharisto came when one of her six children put his hand through a large fan used to cool their barn. Then God gently taught her as he walked with her.
This is a book I believe everyone should read. Man, woman, young person. She relies heavily on scripture, and I also appreciate the many quotes from heros of the faith that are scattered throughout the book. This practice of thanksgiving could completely transform a life--has completely transformed many lives.
Certain parts of the book were personally challenging. I always read with a pencil in hand for underlining. To close this report I'd like to include a few small portions of the book that convicted me:
"God gives us time. And who has time for God?
Which makes no sense.
In Christ don't we have everlasting existence? Don't Christians have all the time in eternity, life everlasting? If Christians run out of time--wouldn't we loose our very own existence? If anyone should have time, isn't it the Christ-followers?"
"I pull out a chair from the table, sink down. The sunflower heads have turned low. [...] What compels me to name these moments upheavals and annoyances instead of grace and gift? Why deprive myself of joy's oxygen? The swiftness of the answer startle. Because you belive in the power of the pit.
Really? I lay my head on the table. Do I really smother my own joy because I believe that anger achieves more than love? That Satan's way is more powerful, more practical, more fulfilling in my daily life than Jesus' way? Why else get angry? Isn't it because I think complaining, exasperation, resentment will pound me up into the full life I really want? When I choose--and it is a choice--to crush joy with bitterness, am I not purposefully choosing to take the way of the Prince of Darkness? Choosing the angry way of Lucifer because I think it is more effective--more expedient--than giving thanks?"
"All these years, these angers, these hardnings, this desire to control, I had thought I had to snap the hand closed to shield joy's fragile flame from the blasts. In a storm of struggles, I had tried to control the elements, clasp the fist so tight so as to protect self and happiness. But palms curled into protective fists fill with darkness. [...] My own wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy."
(Chapter 8)"Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism."