Poetry or Heresy? A Review of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts

photo credit: onethousandgifts.com

Over Christmas break, when I was between semesters of teaching and grad school, I decided to ignore my thesis for a little while and whittle down my personal “must read” list by a title or two.  At the top of that list was Ann Voskamp’s best seller One Thousand Gifts, which came highly recommended by some of the women I most respect, including my mom and my pastor’s wife.  The book’s tagline was, “A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.”  It sounded good.  While we visited my family in Pennsylvania over Christmas, I settled into one of their overstuffed chairs and had a good, long read.

My first impression of the book was that the writing style was a little distracting.  It was a strange marriage of prose and poetry, and I was sometimes annoyed by the lengthy, melodramatic descriptions of nature.  I also couldn’t stand Voskamp’s omission of articles and her placement and use of adjectives.  Phrases like “round pizza thin” made my ears bleed.

I must also say that I didn’t agree with all of the principles Voskamp put forth, and I wished that she would have expressed differently other principles with which I did agree.  I’ll discuss these in more depth later in the post.

However, I was stunned by the profound insight demonstrated by this woman who has lived a simple life as a farmer’s wife and homeschooling mother of six.  I felt convicted, encouraged, and pointed back to Christ.  I would count this as perhaps the most influential book I’ve read outside the Bible within the last five or so years.  This is a message that needs to be learned—not just heard, not just “Oh yes, that sound nice,” but truly, transformingly learned—by everyone in the church today.

So you can imagine my perplexity when I started reading scathing reviews and hearing harsh criticisms from Christians who found Voskamp’s book not just erroneous in parts, but damningly heretical.  I found one popular review especially vitriolic.  It accused Voskamp of “panentheism” (seeing God in everything; distinguishable from pantheism, which teaches that God IS everything) and romanticism (truth is found in feelings).  I would like to propose a defense of the book that speaks generally to these and other criticisms while acknowledging the book’s shortcomings.  I know that I won’t change the minds of those who firmly believe that the book is “of the devil,” but I hope that those who might be swayed by frightening labels will consider giving it a second chance.

It’s important to begin by discussing the genre of the book, because form does indeed affect content.  Voskamp did not write this book as a series of propositions; she wrote it as poetry (I happen to think it’s not great poetry, but for the moment that’s irrelevant).  The point is that poetry cannot and should not be read the same way as prose.  Poetry has a range of possible interpretations.  It is full of subtleties, nuances, and of course, figurative language. I happen to think that the severest critics of One Thousand Gifts are those who either interpreted its poetry most ungenerously or simply read it as propositions.  We run into all kinds of problems when we don’t read poetry as poetry.  Five books of the Bible are poetry, and if we read parts of those books literally, we would be led to think that God has eyes, ears, and wings.  If we simply read Voskamp’s text as poetry and choose to give her the theological benefit of the doubt in our interpretations, that solves a vast majority of the book’s “problems.”

Voskamp not only writes from a biblical foundation, but also expresses strong, clear biblical principles throughout the book.  The beliefs that form the core of Christianity are all present in this text: a Triune God who has revealed Himself in Scripture, original sin against a holy God, salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone, the need for repentance and sanctification, and placing our sole hope in God rather than in a broken world.

I think that there are a couple of places that drift into error.  The “running to the moon” chapter portrays personal experience as more helpful in the process of sanctification than it actually is.  However, Voskamp stays within the bounds of seeing nature as general revelation, a sign that points back to the Creator.  Yes, it gets silly, and I didn’t enjoy it.  But I wouldn’t call it heresy.

Then there’s the last chapter that uses a sexual metaphor to describe our relationship with God.  I didn’t find this offensive, so much as…weird (then again, there are parts of the Bible, like Song of Solomon, that get a little freaky too).  I remember the rapturous experience of traveling to Europe for the first time: looking up at the glorious ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, watching shafts of sunlight pour through the windows of St. Peter’s Basilica.  It’s easy to feel like God is more present in those places than He is in our humdrum suburban American lives.  I don’t wish to undermine Voskamp’s personal experiences, but I think she was got a little carried away looking at a stunning painting in Louvre while listening to some beautiful music.  It’s the “camp experience.”  We get hauled out of our sheltered comfort zone, we feel tired and confused, and we misinterpret the flicker of a lovely campfire flame as a divine message.

None of this detracts from the plethora of wonderful insights Voskamp provides into the Christian life.  Nor should it.  Every single human-authored book is bound to contain error. We would never throw out Augustine because he is largely responsible for the incorrect doctrine of purgatory.  He is one of the early church fathers, and his contributions to the faith are invaluable.  We ought to read EVERY book with discerning eyes, judging the author’s words against the truth of Scripture, and being careful to separate truth from falsehood.

The frightening labels applied to Voskamp’s book produce quite a “shock and awe” factor, but they are  misleading.  We are often quick to slap a scary label onto a book when we see something with which we disagree, but those labels are usually unhelpful.  Just because Voskamp takes pleasure in God’s creation and learns about Him from what He has made doesn’t make her a Panentheist.  Just because she describes things in a romantic way doesn’t make her a Romanticist.

Unfortunately, we love shredding popular things because it makes us feel elite. It’s been proven (don’t ask me why scientists studied this) that hipsters stop liking Indie bands when the bands become too popular.  That desire to be above what the masses enjoy can make us overly critical and condescending.  Sometimes, criticism of pop culture is legitimate and warranted.  But sometimes we search for scandalous labels the way we searched for dirt on the popular girl in junior high school: “Can you believe she said that?!!” It makes us feel better about ourselves.

Self-righteousness can close us off to means of grace.  Think of your life as a container and think of God’s grace as water pouring into that container.  The smaller you make the container’s opening, the less grace you’re able to receive.  Why wouldn’t we want to live our lives wide open to what God has to teach us?  When we slap a negative label onto something, we shut ourselves off to everything good it might have to say.  And out it goes: baby, bathwater, and all.  This doesn’t mean being open to deception; it means being thoughtful, careful Christians who recognize the fact that God uses broken vessels to carry His truth.  The wisest people I know are also the most teachable people I know.

Most of the harsh critiques I’ve read end with a huffy little caveat—something to the effect of, “Well, the book does tell people to be thankful, which is good…I SUPPOSE.”  This drastically underrates the book’s beautifully stated and strongly biblical teachings.  Voskamp shows us that worry and stress are just other voices of mistrust.  She demonstrates that “Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives.”  She encourages us to see all things as coming from God’s hand, and our acceptance of them as the ultimate gesture of trust.  For these and many more reasons, the book is worth reading and re-reading.  Let’s not constrict our hearts, but be open to receive knowledge and wisdom from many different places.  All truth, as they say, is God’s truth.

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53 thoughts on “Poetry or Heresy? A Review of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts

  1. Thanks for the review. I have to read the book, but only because I don’t like her writing style. I don’t get it. Everything must be weighed against scripture. Humans err, often.

    • Hi Rachel! You’re welcome! I felt that these were things that needed to be said. You’re right: Scripture is the ultimate test and humans are indeed fallible. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  2. Excellent review. I am in the middle of the book. Some of my concerns led me to seek other people’s reviews and after reading reviews ranging from “my word, it’s the best ever” to “damned heretic!”, I found your’s to be spot on. Her overly dramatic style definitely gets under my skin, but I agree that she drives in a very important lesson for us to live out. Take the good, toss the bad. Live and discern and seek Him always, eh?

    • Thank you very much! Like you, I read a lot of reviews and found extreme judgments on both sides. But there were no voices in the middle, defending what’s good in the book while being realistic about its shortcomings. All reading really does come down to “Take the good, toss the bad.” Thanks for your comment.

  3. Miss Emily,

    I appreciate your “even-handed” approach to this book. I must say, however, I don’t think you (and millions of others) realize all the problematic aspects of this book or her theology. There are way too many to put here, so I will only briefly address one or two.

    Let me start off by saying that there has been a dramatic, but under the radar, shift in her theology over the past 5 to 10 years (and it is still moving). If she were forced to answer, she would admit that she is “emergent” in her theology. What I mean is that she is gradually rejecting “old” or “traditional” or “conservative” or “evangelical” (whatever term you want to use) and, the worst part, she is replacing it with Catholicism, New Age ideas, over reliance on feelings and experiences, pop-psychology, pragmatism, mysticism, etc. Yes, I know, these are huge (and seemingly crazy) assertions.

    She glowingly quotes heretical mystics, Catholics, psychologists, New Agers, etc. Yet few seem to notice or care. I’m not sure which one is more dangerous. Eucharisteo is not just an important word for thanks, joy, etc. To her, it has crossed over to Catholicism and the Eucharist, literally (with a capital E, as in what the Catholic church teaches and is NEEDED for salvation). The following is a recent quote from an interview:

    “Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo; the table of thanksgiving. The holy grail of joy, God set it in the very center of Christianity. The Eucharist is the central symbol of Christianity. Glynn, doesn’t the continual repetition of beginning our week at the table of the Eucharist clearly place the whole of our lives into the context of thanksgiving?”

    If she wants to be catholic, emergent, or whatever, that is up to her. But she is not letting people know, at least clearly, of where her beliefs stand now. I could go on and on. I hope you will reexamine the book, as I have many others to do, and not to discount the many warnings and problems with the book.

    By the way, I have frequently heard people reference “all truth is God’s truth.” Not only is this notion wrong and misleading, the bigger point is that it is always used in the context where some questionable at best ideology is being introduced.

    • Hi Mark,
      First of all, thanks for reading my post and crafting a thoughtful response. But I must say that I’m sticking to my guns on this one. I’m currently re-reading the book and finding it even more profound and helpful the second time around. I’m also finding even more things with which I disagree.

      I think you (and others) need to be careful about putting words into her mouth or putting her into a category (like emergent) that she has not declared for herself. Will she declare that category for herself at some point? Possibly. That doesn’t change the fact that there are many wonderful truths in the book. At the time she wrote the book, at least, she did not view the eucharist as necessary for salvation. I’m not sure how her views have changed since.

      I did notice the many different people (Catholics, mystics, heretics, etc.) she quotes from. I would argue that she is not compelled to quote from evangelical Christians. We learn little from people with whom we perfectly agree (which might actually be a quote from Confucius). She quotes from the Bible far more often than she does from any other book, which is to me the critical point, given her topic choice.

      I don’t believe that I’m discounting the book’s theological problems. But I also don’t believe that this book is going to lead the flock astray. In fact, I think that overall it is helpful to the church, which is why I have no qualms about recommending it. Even if we are reading Calvin, Owen, or Edwards, we ought to be reading critically and with discernment. These too, were fallible human beings who were not always correct.

      Finally, I would like to staunchly defend my use of the phrase, “All truth is God’s truth.” I have never heard it used in defense of questionable theology before. I have only heard it in reference to general revelation. Because all people have access to general revelation, that means that secular scientists, psychologists, etc. can discover God’s truth–the truth he placed within the natural world. Can you think of any truth whatsoever that is not of God? I can’t. Man is the source of sin, lies, deceit, etc. God is the source of truth. Is God’s truth mixed in with lies in human writings? Yes, always. The Bible is the only book that is completely true. Everywhere else, we must sift through the falsehoods to find the nuggets of truth and then compare them to Scripture to make sure that they are indeed true. But if I find something true in a secular author’s writing, I refuse to credit that truth to the author’s own ingenuity. I’m going to see that truth and glorify God, believing that it came from Him.

      I’m guessing that you won’t give Voskamp’s book a second look and will spend your time warning people to not read it. I don’t even expect that this response will in any way influence your thinking about the book, as your mind is quite made up (I mainly posted this for other readers). But I hope that you will give the book another chance, look discerningly for BOTH true and the false, and take to heart the true.

      • Emily,
        Thanks for this reply. I came across your blogpost here by googling “Contentment Tea” an idea I had to do a “contentment basket” for a Christmas gift for a friend who is very discontented with his life right now, and then seeing a link about the book A THOUSAND GIFTS, leading to your blog title, which intrigued me. I thought you did a great job throughout the initial post, but was a bit put off by the quote “All truth is God’s truth”–actually, not really by the quote, but by your statement, without any background, that “They say…” So I decided to go ahead and read the comments, and was glad I came to this one.
        In googling just hat phrase, I found there is a book by Arthur Holmes by that title, and a blogpost by Keith Shields by that name, reviewing that book (I haven’t read either). I would be interested in where that phrase came from originally, and your thoughts on that development.
        I really enjoyed your middle-of-the-stream analysis. I too think gratitude is way too uncommon today–in fact, ingratitude and thanklessness are considered one of the signs of the end times (2 Tim. 3:2-4). I recently came across some of the Merlin Carothers books from the 1970’s (the first decade of my Christian walk), titled PRISON TO PRAISE and THE POWER OF PRAISE, and remember reading them and the concept that our attitude can powerfully impact our lives. We do reap what we sow. And many secular and non-Christian religious writers have tapped into the idea that thanksgiving is powerful.
        I believe there are spiritual laws that operate above and beyond Christianity, that were in place before Christ came, similar to the laws of physics [like gravity], that operate regardless–and things like gratitude and sowing-and-reaping are among those–I was amazed recently to analyze Deepak Chopra’s “Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” in this light, and see that the majority had solid Biblical basis! As an electrician, I often make the statement that we all live by faith, whether we want to or not–we “believe” that a light switch will work, that the key will start our car, that a chair will hold our weight. We simply CANNOT operate without faith!
        That is not to discount the validity of Christ’s sacrifice, or to in any way bring Him down to merely human. What He did is unique, and priceless. But our culture has lost sight of the value of the impact His coming has had–See, e.g., Alvin J. Schmidt’s book UNDER THE INFLUENCE: HOW CHRISTIANITY TRANSFORMED CIVILIZATION, or Thomas Cahill’s HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION, or the transforming influence of a fair number of individuals who impacted their particular culture, such as Count von Zinzendorff through the Moravians, John Wesley through his “methods,” or Martin Luther in theology and music, or Martin Luther King with civil rights. [One humorous but sad aside to illustrate my point here–a 74-year-old retired pastor I know mentors some twenty-something young men, and they thought his references to Martin Luther were about Martin Luther King–they had no idea there was a real person named Martin Luther!]
        Well, I’ve rambled on enough. But thank you again, Emily, for your balanced insights–and for sticking to your guns on this one! I may yet read A THOUSAND GIFTS–but if I don’t get to, at least I’ll experience them!

      • “I did notice the many different people (Catholics, mystics, heretics, etc.) she quotes from. I would argue that she is not compelled to quote from evangelical Christians. We learn little from people with whom we perfectly agree (which might actually be a quote from Confucius). She quotes from the Bible far more often than she does from any other book, which is to me the critical point, given her topic choice.”

        You may argue that she is not compelled to quote from evangelical Christians but it would be an argument that proves she is on the wrong path. You do not write a book on how to get closer to God, be thankful for everything through Him and use quotes from those you disagree with. She uses these quotes as support for her message and by doing so enlightens you to where her spiritual walk currently is and where it is heading. The fact that you quote Confucius in your defense is also puzzling. Maybe using scripture would be a better alternative. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” 2 Cor 6:14

        “Because all people have access to general revelation, that means that secular scientists, psychologists, etc. can discover God’s truth–the truth he placed within the natural world. Can you think of any truth whatsoever that is not of God?”

        They may have access in the sense that they are here and so is God’s revelation but I do not believe that anyone outside of the Body of Christ can “discover” God’s truth unless they here the Gospel and come into God’s family. Secular scientists and psychologists spend most of there time refuting anything that is associated with God not discovering truths that God has given us.

        “Can you think of any truth whatsoever that is not of God?”

        You are correct that all truth is God’s truth. The problem comes in when we as imperfect creations start deciding what is truth outside of what God has shown us to be truth. So many books filled with so many supposed truths. Books that are not inspired.

        “But I hope that you will give the book another chance, look discerningly for BOTH true and the false, and take to heart the true.”

        Discernment is a gift of the Spirit. As such there are those who are more discerning than others and some may not be discerning at all. I have found of all the gifts it is the most thankless one. Nobody likes to have things brought to their attention if it affects something or someone they like. You recommend to just pick out the truth and leave the rest. There are many who cannot do this. My recommendation is to read things that are more biblically sound, more easliy understood and will not require so much sifting. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Gal 5:9

      • In response to DAbraham:

        1. I stand by all that I have said; my mind remains unchanged on all points.
        2. Leaving one well-reasoned comment is admirable (even if I disagree with it). Attempting to leave FIVE extremely long-winded, highly emotional comments over a span of four hours is weirdly obsessive. I’ve approved the first comment. I’m not approving the rest.
        3. Ad hominem attacks (like those in the comments I didn’t approve), are never welcome here. They shouldn’t be welcome anywhere.
        4. Thank you for giving me an excellent reason to close comments on this post. I suggest that you start your own blog and that you switch to the ESV (https://bible.org/article/why-i-do-not-think-king-james-bible-best-translation-available-today).

  4. I’m really glad to have read this tonight. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve been wondering a lot if I should. I think I will now.

    • Thank you very much for stopping by and taking time to read my post! I’m glad that you found it helpful and I do wholeheartedly recommend the book in spite of its shortcomings. I’m reading it a second time and finding it even more helpful the second time around. And I’m skimming through some of the nonsense. 🙂

  5. I’m really glad to have read this tonight. I haven’t read the book yet, but have been wondering for a while if I should. I think I will now.

  6. Thank you for the balanced review of this book. I just read several negative reviews, but it seemed like they were saying: “If Ann says A, it really means B, and B leads to C, which is heresy.”

    • You’re welcome! I appreciate you stopping by to read the post. I agree with your assessment of the very negative reviews, and I think if people extrapolate statements in that way, they can turn anyone into a heretic, even Jesus.

  7. I read this book last summer and am currently re-reading it with a group of women. I stumbled upon your review while doing a little research in preparation for our next discussion. Thanks for your balanced evaluation… maybe I appreciate it because it pretty closely matches my own! 🙂

    While I do have some critiques of the book, I also deeply appreciate her discussion of “eucharisteo” and the transformative nature of gratitude in the everyday life of a Christian. As a mom of two busy boys, I find many of her ideas truthful, relevant, renewing and practical to apply to our family’s daily experience of struggle and joy. Though I have some theological problems here and there earlier in the book, my greatest difficulties are in the last chapter: specifically, the constant occurrence of inappropriate sexual metaphors and the contradiction of having this extraordinary experience of spiritual fulfillment with a friend in Paris when the rest of the book is about finding grace/joy/gratitude in the ordinary, everyday, grubby chaos of life. I was actually quite confused while reading the final chapter, as it seems almost bizarrely off the mark in comparison with the bulk of her insights. But all-in-all, lots to appreciate in this book and pretty easy to sift out the good from the bad.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Kathy! I really appreciated your observation about how the last chapter seems to contradict the very principles Voskamp sets forth in the rest of the book. I had never thought about that before, but it succinctly summarizes the problems I had with that chapter.

      I hope you enjoy discussing the book in your group! I just love going to book club. If there are new or especially profound insights that emerge from your discussion, let me know!

  8. I’m looking forward to reading this book, now all the more after reading your review (doing a little preliminary research about it and stumbled across this). Now If I can just push through her style…!!

    • Thank you for stopping by, Clarice! I hope that you enjoy the book. I feel that her style, though off-putting, is worth pushing through for the reward of her message.

  9. Hello Emily,
    Thank you for your balanced review. I am a pastor and have taken some of the main ideas in the book and used them as a foundation for a sermon series that ended up being 7 weeks. I must say the last chapter really caught me off guard. I wondered the whole time reading it, “How did this get past an editor?” It was just so “weird” as someone mentioned before. Overall, I found the basic principles of the book excellent and Biblical.

    God Bless,
    Pastor Kevin Newton

    • Pastor Kevin, thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to read the post and leave feedback! I wholeheartedly agree that an editor should have had the good sense to take that last chapter to the chopping block, because it undermines the beautiful message of the rest of the book, which is to see God’s grace in the most mundane of circumstances. I am sure that your congregation must have thoroughly enjoyed your sermon series on the book! Blessings to you and yours!

  10. My concern is for those reading this book who already have a mystical, experiential understanding of salvation and relationship with Christ. Mature Christians should be able to discern the truth, separate truth from non truth according to God’s Word. I suspect, it being on the best sellers list, that many non Christians and immature Christians have read this book and therefore, believe the truth and non truths written in this book. I would be cautious who you recommend read this book for that very reason.

    • Sorry, I still think that there’s more than enough great stuff in her book to recommend widely. Wouldn’t it be great if the book engendered deep discussions about the basis for truth and salvation?? I also think C.S. Lewis and Augustine have a lot of non truths in their writing, but I recommend them as well. People who are looking for confirmation for false beliefs will certainly find it. Thanks for taking time to stop by, read, and comment!

      • Again, Emily, I agree with your stand here. If you think about it, somehow God decided we were worth trusting with the truths (and non-truths) of eternity–He allowed us to go wrong so we could truly know the value of right.
        I have sometimes thought that He did this so that we would not be puppets. Love has to be freely given from our side, just as it was from His. Thus there must be those who reject it. If He had not allowed that, then somewhere in the rest of eternity, He could have been accused of our love of Him being manipulated, simply a game He played, and not really true love. I’m glad He trusts us eternally. Somehow, our free choice to love is of incalculable worth to Him: I really like Kenneth Taylor’s paraphrase (LIVING BIBLE) of Eph. 1:18: “I want you to know that GOD HAS BEEN MADE RICH BECAUSE YOU WHO BELONG TO CHRIST HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO HIM.” (emphasis added). Think of that–the God of the universe CHOOSES to make us the measure of His wealth!

  11. I have read this book and I liked her style of wording . I can agree that for all the good in the book, most will take away the bad with it as being truth. It is sad that we have to be this way with books, sifting through some grey areas of muck for wisdom and inspiration. I recently read The Calvary Road by Roy Hession which is truly inspirational without the sorting. There is even a pdf copy to download for free through Google.

  12. II Timothy 4:2-4–Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. There are so many books full of so many opinions of God and how to find peace with Him, etc. In these days when apostacy abounds, the safest and best place to find the truth of God is in His own Book; and yet it is probably rarely read from cover to cover like these New York Times best sellers that hit the fan every several years. When you read the Word of God, you can drink the milk, chew the meat, and there is no need to spit out any bones because there are none. God doesn’t mix truth with error. How many times in the past decade have I read that Christians believe that they have seen God better than ever before because of the writings of a man? Too many times. Interesting that God isn’t able to reveal Himself to us through His own Book. We have to “heap to ourselves teachers.” We have some desire to “know” God more. We probably know God less in these days than many saints in the past, and yet we have more literature and other resources from which to gain that “knowledge.” The Christian book catalogs are packed full of supposed resources to help the Christian in his walk in one way or other. While these books continue to be produced en masse, whether written by Augustine or Voskamp, the Bible will be read less instead of more, and its 100% innerrant truth (doctrine) will be left on the shelf.

    • I think you are setting up a false dichotomy. You can read people who wish to expound the Word as well as the Word. Anyone who knows anything about Voskamp would tell you that she is a diligent student of the Word and encourages others to do the same. If you take your argument to its conclusions we shouldn’t listen to pastors in church or read any Christian books, or blogs like this one for that matter. It should just be you and your Bible at home by yourself.

      • Thank you Emily for a balanced review of this book. I never give a book to anyone without the disclaimer that God’s Word is infallible, but human authors are not!
        The book has change several women in our Bible Study group….to be deliberate in giving thanks and having a heart of gratitude. And yes the last chapter was very disturbing(: Blessings.

      • Thank you taking the time to stop by, read, and comment, Romona! I agree with you that we should take every opportunity to remind others that only Scriptures are infallible. More than anything, this book has changed the way I think about “ordinary” life.

  13. Emily-
    I’ve been mystified by the range of followers Voskamp has and I think you’ve helped me understand why she even has followers.
    She’s not a particularly good writer or thinker but she does have an appeal to the average Josephine.
    I myself find her dull, plodding and (sometimes) downright irritating. She communicates her feelings but doesn’t manage to create a setting to stir up the feelings in me as a reader. In that respect she disappoints (for me).
    No, she’s not a poet.
    There is a time in ones life when you need a Voskamp but with time and grown, most disciples move on.
    Thanks again for unfolding her appeal. I am not on your page, but see what you’re saying.

    • Charity, thanks for stopping by to read and comment! I think I will return to Voskamp a time or two more in my life. I hope I won’t ever move on from her message, but there may come a point when I can’t stand her style anymore.

  14. Thanks for this post! I’ve read the book several times and have come away enriched in faith in Christ and with fresh motivation to love and serve well in His Name.

  15. A very sane review. Christians spend so much time and energy criticising and arguing with others and NOT thanking God, that anything, anything, that leads us to turn our eyes away from our selfish lives and self-righteous opinions (yes, even as Christians) and to the Father of every good gift, is welcome, in my view. Thank you for your insights. (Her prose also freaks me out, but the overall message of the practice of praise in all circumstances certainly needs to be heard far and wide.)

    • Thank you, Fran! I agree. The amount of criticism Christians level at each other, especially on the Internet, is staggering. While it’s good to be discerning, it seems like much of the energy we pour into nit-picking and criticizing could be better used elsewhere! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  16. Just read your post. I was a bit confused at times by her writing but over all loved her book, but especially her heart for the Lord. When i read her book a couple years ago, I had been struggling in a dark fog in my life, God used her writing to help pull my head out, and get back where i needed to be, and i am so thankful for that. I totally took her book as her own writing style and did not believe she was trying to be a mystic, she has her own style, and some cannot stomach it, which is just fine. God uses so many writers to help connect them back to Him, and to have so many be so harshly judgmental against her is sad, and embarrassing as a Christian. Everyone has their own walk and should ultimately be seeking the bible. It does not matter how amazing or not a Christian writer is, if it is your only source of biblical teaching you are in trouble.Only one book is from God, and all others can be helpful, but are far from perfect. I do not blame people for not wanting anything to do with the “Christian religion” I appreciate your sane look at her book, thank you.

    • Thank you, Melissa, for taking time to stop by, read, and comment. I completely agree with you that harsh judgments have no place in the Christian walk, and that we constantly must return to the Bible for the standard against we measure everything else. I am glad to hear how God used her book in your life. He used it in my life as well. I have a hard time finding joy in the mundane, and that’s the most important thing the book did for me. Blessings to you!!

  17. Thanks for your thoughtful (and well-written!) review. I am just reading OTG for the first time, and only one-third in, so I have absolutely no business posting a review just yet. But here goes: It feels a bit (okay, a lot) indulgent. Very complicated (I understand that poetry ceases to be poetry if it can be understood on the first read, but still…). The the gospel is supposed to be a potent little thing, simple enough for children to grasp. I feel like she is trying to force her soul into gratefulness boot-camp, that her salvation is imperfect (insufficient?) unless she works it out, masters the art of accepting all things, good and bad, from God’s hands.

    I feel like she is adding to the gospel, saying that she was sitting their dead in church all these years. Which I know is completely possible (the Bible talks of whitewashed tombs!), but I get a little nervous when anyone claims that “something more” must be mastered for them to really own their and activate their salvation (I call this “batteries not included” theology–the parts are all there, sure, but we have to bring lots of our own energy to the equation…and a screwdriver. Or in Ann’s case, a hammer. Not true. God does the work, start to finish! So no one can boast!)

    I appreciate that this is a book for a believer looking to go deeper and move beyond “spiritual milk” to meatier fare, but I do agree that so much stock is put in feeling. Am I really to be redeemed by reveling in sudsy dishwater? Made whole, healed, by a heap of shredded pizza cheese?

    I am someone who puts far too much emphasis on my emotions, on experience. I am like Ann. And I pray often for God to rescue me from the temptation to put my own “experience” on equal footing with his gospel.

    Ah, I am venting. I should go finish the book. Regardless, thanks for your generous review. 🙂

  18. I agree that books should be read with “discerning eyes”. An issue that arises is that many in Christendom today do not read discerningly. And, furthermore, the level of spiritual acumen and theological knowledge is scant at best. Books like Voskamp’s are dangerous: dangerous to those new Christians, those ‘baby’ Christians who do not have the spiritual maturity yet to have a level of discerning which is necessary to view accurately things which are questionably written. These types of books (and Voskamp’s book soecifically) can certainly have a tremendous impact on believers and the theology they embrace–that, of course, would be a terrible thing.

    • Hi Rob! I agree that many Christians are not discerning. But I think a really good way to help them be more discerning is to engage them in meaningful conversations about books like Voskamp’s: what lines up with Scripture and what doesn’t? Thanks very much for stopping by my blog and taking time to comment!

  19. I have read her book and wish that I had a list of things to look for as I read that some think are untruths. I come from a very conservative background and I didn’t find anything amiss. Could someone help me? Or, direct me to a blog that could help?

    • Kat, I think you will find the primary and most common objections to the book in people’s comments on this post (in addition to the minor ones I mentioned in the post).

  20. I have read this book. I loved it at first. But after lisning too some of my friends who nows the Lord and the Bible and with I trust. I just was sceard of my blindness. I am glad I reads this coments from this blog post. And I can`t say that I a gree with Ann Voskamp. Be cearful about what you read and ask The Lord if you should read a book or not, This is more to me and others. I love to read, but I love to folow the Bibel more then Ann Voskamp or other people in the world.

    • Thanks for your comment! I agree that we need to heed the Bible’s teachings above those of any human teacher. But rather than avoiding books with which we disagree, I think it’s better to engage those books, to compare and contrast them with Scripture, and to always be thoughtful, careful readers. We who know the truth have nothing to fear from untruth.

  21. I’m in the middle of reading this book with a group of women (doing the video study also) and it has worked wonders in all our lives. At the end of the sessions, there is never a dry eye. I am coming out of a season of depression and joylessness (perhaps a bit of depression) and can identify with her journey. She has shown me how to find joy in (and with) the Lord again. I am saddened for those who cannot read beyond her writing style (and possibly some error to biblical application) to consume the message she is serving. Imagine if we did that with Song of Songs/Song of Solomon or Revelation. I challenge everyone to keep a list of their 1000 Gifts…see how it changes their lives. You don’t have to read the book to do that. 🙂

  22. Ugh, I just ordered this book and I am not one who ever reads “self help Christian books” I am very leary of these types of books. Anyway, I will give it a whirl. From what I have read there are two things that concern me. I read some one’s review about this book being dangerous to some, ( notice it says SOME) and from I gather I can agree it’s danger to some, like “baby Christians.” Another thing I have read that concerns me is her idea that all who call themselves Christian are believers. I noticed on her blog under “meet Ann” at the very bottom she has a statement that says ” I believe” and under that she has the Nicene Creed that says, baptism is required for the remission of sins. She also has the Apostle’s creed that says Christ went to Hell. Both of these “prayers” are submitting to the RCC. I have major issues with someone who has bought into the ecumenical church. I can totally agree with ca catholic on many moral issues, abortion, the sanctity of marriage one man one woman…etc. I have no problem praying with them. But I must draw the line when it comes to the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” Ephesians 2: 8-9For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” John 3:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” I guess my point is, how can you as a believer who is saved by faith through grace alone put out a statement of faith on your blog that embraces the RCC’s teaching on salvation. When we as believers buy into this type of tolerance we are throwing the Reformation away! Martin Luther and all those men and women who fought against that false Gospel are probably “turning in their graves!”

  23. I am afraid that this review doesn’t deal to deeply with the content but is more of a review of the reviewers.

  24. Thank you for your review and opening up discussion about “One Thousand Gifts.” It is clear many are passionate about what they believe. I am in a women’s Bible Study that is currently reading this book. One lady dropped out because of the concerns she has heard mentioned by Voskamp’s critics. I decided to read it for myself and reference it with scripture. I’ve found that if you get through all her words you can see her heart. On the contrary, I find her message to be very simple. She clearly does not worship nature, or try to persuade the reader with romantic panentheism, she is simply expressing her heart being transformed by “thanking God in all circumstances.” I happen to like the way she writes. Her words encourage me to put into practice what I know I should be doing, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess 5

    • Thank you for taking the time to stop by, read, and comment. I know there are many people who like her style; it just weirds me out a lot. I hope that you get a lot out of the study and discussion!! It was a serious game-changer for me.

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