I was not prepared for the poetry of this book, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. The sheer beauty of the writing. The depth of the writer. It has taken me nearly six months to complete it. My experience has been more absorbing than reading. I have taken it slow, a chapter at a time; some days just a page. Savoring the riches. "A dare to live fully right where you are." Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Daily. Moment by moment. Always aware of the gift around us. Writing it down, Keeping track. One thousand gifts. "It is a dare to name all the ways that God loves me."
What starts as tragedy in Ann's life takes her on a quest into the world of eucharisteo and transforms her life. She walks us through that journey - instructing simply by telling her story in such poetry of thoughts, confessions, insights.
"With memories of gravestones, of combing fingers through tangled hair, I wonder too...if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the loses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see. To see through to God. That that which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave."
It really is her journey but you get completely pulled into the reality that it is yours as well. And for many of us a new list of 1000 from our own lives. Offerings back to God for His gifts. She calls it "making a ledger of God's love."
"I don't even know they are gifts really until I write them down and that is really what they look like. Gifts He bestows. This writing it down -- it is sort of like...unwrapping love."
"I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life. A lifetime of sermons on "thanks in all things" and the shelves sagging with books on these things and I testify: life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time."
"It's this sleuthing for the glory that slows a life gloriously. It's plain, bubble straight through: Giving thanks for one thousand things is ultimately an invitation to slow time down with weight of full attention. In this space of time and sphere, I am attentive, aware, accepting the whole of the moment, weighing it down with me all here."
Yes, we are now paying attention.
And what of joy? "As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible."
"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."
And of belief? "Our salvation in Christ is real, yet the completeness of that salvation is not fully realized in a life until the life realizes the need to give thanks. In everything? I would never experience the fullness of my salvation until I expressed the fullness of my thanks every day, and eucharisteo is elemental to living the saved life."
"If authentic, saving belief is an act of trusting, then to choose stress is an act of unbelief...atheism. Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism. I wince. 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."
And of prayer? "Praying with eyes wide open is the only way to pray without ceasing."
"Eucharisteo makes the knees the vantage point of a life."
And of seeing? "The practice of giving thanks...eucharisteo...this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don't have to change what we see. Only the way we see."
"I have to seek God beauty. Because isn't my internal circuitry wired to seek out something worthy of worship? Every moment I live, I live bowed to something. And if I don't see God, I'll bow down before something else....All beauty is only reflection. And whether I am conscious of it or not, any created thing of which I am amazed, it is the glimpse of His to which I bow down. Do I have eyes to see it's Him and not the thing?"
And of emotions, feelings? "The only way to fight a feeling is with a feeling....Feel thanks and it's absolutely impossible to feel angry. We can only experience one emotion at a time. And we get to choose -- which emotion do we want to feel?"
"Worry is the facade of taking action when prayer really is."
"While I may not feel joy, God asks me to give thanks in all things, because He knows that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving."
And of humility? "The quiet song of gratitude, eucharisteo, lures humility out of the shadows because to recieve a gift the knees must bend humble and the hand must lie vulnerably open and the will must bow to accept whatever the Giver chooses to give."
"That whenever I am parched and dry, I must go lower with the water and I must kneel low in thanks. The river of joy flows down to the lowest places."
This is a book worth reading, really a book worth living out. My bright orange eucharisteo journal sits here on the table, waiting for me to see yet another evidence of His love.