Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"One Thousand Gifts" A Review!

When Emily and I decided to start a book club a few months ago I didn't quite know what I was getting myself into.

I don't really like to think of myself as the book club type...but what Em and I prayed for and desired is a place where women could fellowship and read an awesome book together at the same time.

"One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp was our first book that we chose to read. It reads to a variety of ages and spiritual maturity levels and while her writing style is different, I found myself captivated by her words.

I didn't really see the need to research reviews of the book, I feel competent enough to be discerning about what I read, and also competent enough to discuss things that might not be biblical or theologically correct. I didn't hear about negative reviews until after reading it through the first time, and by then we were just about to kick off book club, so it was too late to go back!

Overall, we received good feedback from the women in our group. The message in each chapter was a launchpad for great conversation and discussion.

I liked the simple message of the book, the simple charge to be more thankful. The message isn't daunting or hard to comprehend, and her journey of thankfulness was inspiring.

 Be thankful. 

See everything as a gift, because it IS a gift. 

 Count the ways He loves you because surely they are numerous.

Find JOY in the hard times, trust that He is using it for good. 


 As we traveled through this book the last few months in group, our hearts were laid bare on the table, and I, on an individual level, was forced to confront situations and things that I was stubbornly, constantly ungrateful for. We shared the things that we were grateful for in joy, and the things we were grateful for in suffering. We shared our lives with one another, and I got to know a few women deeper than I ever expected to.

 It is troubling that there is rising controversy about this book among Christians, men and women alike. Many have a problem with her poetic writing style, and while it was certainly hard to understand at times, it didn't bother me once I came to expect it. It's kind of like reading Shakespeare for me...translating as I go and getting the big picture when I'm finished.

Another charge at her writing is that she is promoting Panentheism. My first response was "umm..WHAT?" All over this book is a constant call to be thankful for what CHRIST HAS DONE and what He is still doing! Charging her for promoting Panentheism is a blatant disregard for the overall message of her book. Her gazing at the moon and seeing the Glory that God created in it, is not the same as saying that God IS the moon. 

The moon is pretty stinkin' beautiful, after all.

The third most talked about issue is the sexual nature in which she relates her relationship to Christ. This is where the red flag was for me. Emily and I prepared the women in our group to face that issue before we read the book, and we decided to still read the chapter where it occurred because lets face this world we will be confronted with this ALL the time, so better that we confront it now as a group than later as individuals. Does "50 shades of gray" ring a bell for anyone?

As far as I'm concerned, the last chapter of "One Thousand Gifts" is completely unnecessary. Ann's description of her relationship with Christ in a sexual manner is an analogy that has been taken one step too far. I found it awkward. I found it uncomfortable. And I felt that she was making us equals with God and taking Him off of His throne, which is just don't. 

The last chapter of "One Thousand Gifts" is a poor ending for the book, and not a representation of what the entire book was about. When theologians and scholars are reviewing this book, I hope they don't read the first and last chapter and make their judgment from there. That is doing the book a whole lot of injustice.

My hope is that people can step back and see the message that Ann is trying to present. Just because her writing style is different than (insert awesome theologian's name here), doesn't warrant us to write her off completely. There is no perfect book, besides scripture (obvi), so it is OK to avoid certain parts -- but the whole message doesn't need to be lost!

The experience of reading this book with a group of women at church was an awesome one. I am so thankful to be on this journey with Emily, and so excited to see how the Lord continues to work through this ministry.

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