This post is a multi-faceted summary of the book “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. This poetic memoir is strictly for those who dare to dive deep into the mysteries of pain and suffering and reconcile them to the true image of a perfectly good God, who loves and gives good gifts. In it Ann teaches us the art of living fully, which begins with returning to our perfect Edenic state by means of gratitude.
My notes and commentary are added to each section of this summary, which also contains direct quotes from Anne herself. Enjoy.
Audio Recording of this post:
The Questions We are Answering:
The first question is regarding the character of God and the second is regarding our own view of God, in light of who He is. In order for this study to work, you must have the view that the bible is the infallible, spirit-breathed word of God.
“Where is God really? How can He be good when babies die, and marriages implode, and dreams blow away, dust in the wind? Where is grace bestowed when cancer gnaws and loneliness aches and nameless places in us soundlessly die, break off without reason, erode away? Where hides this joy of the lord, this God who gives good things and how do I fully live when life is full of hurt? How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out?” (Voskamp, page 12)
“What is the heart of God? Do I believe in a God who rouses himself just now and then to spill a bit of benevolence on hemorrhaging humanity? A God who breaks through the carapace of this orb only now and then, surprises us with a spared hand, a reprieve from sickness, a good job, and a house in the burbs—and then finds himself again too impotent to deal with all I see as suffering and evil? A God of sporadic random splattering goodness—that now and then splatters across a gratitude journal? Somebody tell me:
What are all the other moments?( Voskamp 85-86)
Reflection: We notice here that in the first question Ann primarily gears the question’s tone toward challenging the character of God. How can I believe in this gracious God who allows pain, and tolerates destruction? What a heavy hand He uses when dealing with humanity….and am I supposed to believe these suggestions that He is actually good?
The second question is not any less bitter, save that Ann acknowledges that perhaps humanity has a role in this distorted view of God—that He is cruel, and unconcerned. She reasons this rationale with the idea that in a certain way we may have evidence that points to Him having a corrupted nature, but we do still have a choice in what to believe, and how we frame what we see.
Addressing Question 1:
Where is Grace in all this madness?
“And he took bread, gave thanks and took it and gave it to them.” – Luke 22:19
“He gave thanks” reads eucharisteo in the original Greek. (Voskamp 32)
- Eucharisteo is: Charis meaning grace
- Chara: meaning Joy. (Voskamp 32)
- We give thanks, just as Christ commands us to do, in one fashion by taking the bread and drink, and also in “all things” as mentioned in the epistles and we thereby enter into his grace.
- Also joy is proportionate to gratitude, so therefore God is not harsh in asking us to see past our sufferings, but kind, and willing that we should posses his heart, his vision, thereby entering into His grace.
“As long as thanks is possible joy is possible.” (Voskamp 33).
Note: We can see clearly that man is responsible in part for this distorted view of the character of God, because we stepped out of perfection and into the lie that “God is withholding something good from us” as Ann puts it.
In Genesis, God commanded Adam and Eve that they would be allowed to eat anything in the garden except the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). We see in Genesis chapter 3, that the tempter came that is Satan, and told them that God did not want them to eat of that particular tree because then they would be like God, knowing all things.
- This poisonous mistrust for the heart of God toward man, entered into mankind with the doubt of his commands and the intent behind them.
- Man believed the lie that God was withholding good from them.
- Sin entered into the world, which is now as a result, fallen.
Ann teaches in her book that man can return to the state of perfection by means of believing that God will withhold no good thing from us ( Psalm 84:11). We can also return back to our perfect Edenic state might I add, by choosing to believe in God’s word, who is Jesus, thereby repenting from the sin of doubt and by causing the tempter to lose power.
What are you doubting? What are you afraid that God is withholding from you? I encourage you dear friend to open your palm, reach out, and give it over to Him. I love that Ann shows us that God can handle it. He is not daunted by our antics, nor will he be moved by our accusations as we see in Job. He is waiting for our surrender.
A Life of Gratitude
Throughout the book, that is the questions, the doubts, the throes of a hard-knock life of financial uncertainty, and trying to make sense of an all time traumatic witnessing of the murder of her younger sister, Ann leads by example and dares to count her blessings amidst it real life. As a farmer’s wife and mother of six, she is piled under the responsibility of a chaotic life of trying to find moments of miraculous, grace-filled gratitude, all while trying to be present with her family and do ministry.
Ann gently guides the reader into the truth that even time is a gift, and while it is seemingly insufficient, and always passing by, God transcends time. This means that we can always make time to be present with him. How precious.
“Time is a relentless river. It rages on, a respecter of no one. And this, this is the only way to slow time: When I fully enter time’s swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention. I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here. (Voskamp 68)
Friend are you present with God? He is present with you. He is the answer. We like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6), but can return back to the Father and enter into his grace at any time by means of our trust in Him and gratitude.
Call To Action:
The story behind the title of the book One Thousand Gifts is that Ann finds her way back to a fuller more joyful life by beginning with a list of 1,000 gifts that turns into a never-ending gratitude list throughout all her life. This list helps heal her ache from the witnessing of the death of her sister, the pain of a family member with cancer, and man other heart-wrenching woes in life.
Friend, I dare you to live fully by beginning your own list!!! (:
Here is a glimpse into mine:
- The sound of rain lulling me to sleep.
- A clean kitchen
- The stillness of quiet at the break of dawn
- A good therapist who is gentle but willing to speak truth
- A friend who gives me money when the stock market is crashing and uncertainty overwhelms me
- Cuddles with my kitty
- Perfect imagery in a poetic good old-fashioned book.
- A ring given by God parents
- The way that seasons change
- The way that God has a sense of humor.
- The gift of A simple heart and a heart of wonder.
The list goes on. I thank you for reading this post and for believing in the mission of Jesus & Tea. If you enjoy posts like these and would like the ministry to continue, feel free to give a give on the support page: