Friday, 24 June 2011

One Thousand Gifts - Chapter One.

This week I have read chapter one of One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. The description of her sister's death was quite upsetting. Ann uses a lot of emotive language which draws you in. This first chapter is mostly an introduction to Ann, her life and what the purpose of the book is. 

Questions from the study guide. 

1, Ann means “full of grace”; Aimee means “loved one.” Do you know the meaning of your name? If so, what significance does it have for you? If you don’t know your name’s meaning, what do you know about why your name was chosen for you?

My name means white wave or fair one. It is, I think, Gaelic in origin and is a variant of the name Guinevere. I quite like my name, I like that it can be shortened and I think that I will grow in to the "full" version! My name was chosen for me by my mother before I was born. She read a few baby name books and liked the meaning of Jennifer. 

2. “If I’m ruthlessly honest, I may have said yes to God, yes to Christianity, but really, I have lived the no” (p.16). What do you think Ann means by this? has this ever been true for you? If you feel comfortable doing so, describe the experience.

I think Ann means that it is easy to say that you are a Christian and to appear to be a Christian on the surface but it is much harder to accept the changes that must be made and to make a true commitment live by the guidelines set by Jesus. 

There was a time when this was true for me. It was early on when I first became a Christian. I hadn't really accepted that I would have to change or how hard it would be to try to live up to such Godly standards. I went through a phase of saying the right things but not being totally committed in my heart. To be honest, change scared me. I could have carried on living my life as I was, which wasn't a bad way but there were some grey areas, or I could take that step and accept that changes were needed. This was scary to me as if I stayed the same there wasn't really much risk but if I chose to accept the challenge there was a chance that I could fail. 

3. During their forty years of wandering in the desert, the Israelites survived on a daily diet of manna (exodus 16). It is a baffling substance whose name literally means, “What is it?”  —  but they eat it, are nourished by it, and even seem to like the taste (p. 22). the author makes a connection between manna and the troubling mysteries of our own lives. how do you respond to the idea that our questions and the things we don’t yet understand may actually be sources of spiritual nourishment? What do you think it might mean, in practical terms, to “eat the mystery”?

When I was younger I liked to know all the answers and to have everything in a set box - neat, tidy and organised! As I have grown up I have learnt that I don't always have to know everything. In fact, that obsession with always knowing the whys and wherefores was just a form of controlling behaviour. Giving up on that control was actually quite refreshing! Now, I can be contented without knowing everything and sometimes the mysteries make life more interesting. It is a reminder that I don't control the world. A reminder to trust in God and His plan for me rather than trying to force life to speed up or slow down to suit me. I think that "eating the mystery" is more of an acceptance of God's plans and knowing that you don't always know why something happens but trusting that it is for the best. 

4. Ann describes how the death of her sister “tears a hole in the canvas of the world” (p. 16) and later writes, “I wonder ... if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop ... might actually become places to see. to see through to God” (p. 22). Is this a metaphor you find intriguing, comforting, or disturbing? how do you understand it in light of your own experiences of loss?

I find the metaphor intriguing. It isn't something that I have ever really thought about before but it is interesting. It is almost like we need something to tear us away from the every day happenings that I certainly get wrapped up in. Something to stop us and make us think and truly look to God.  

I think it is easy to become wrapped up in grief to the point where you don't see the people and the world around you and it feels like God has abandoned you. That ache in your heart and soul becomes all encompassing and it takes a lot of work to get past that. 

5. the author’s narrative is rich with vivid phrasing and evocative imagery. What lines or descriptions stand out for you? Why do you find them to be powerful?

I found that the writing style took a bit of getting used to. The combination of a lot of description and some very short sentences isn't really common in books that I have read and the way the writing is set out makes it almost look like a poem. 

The section about grief affecting how one perceives God was the part that stood out the most to me. There is a choice whether to open up more to God and to accept the risk of trying to like life fully and to experience all the emotions completely or to stay safe and closed off from both the negative and the positive parts of life. 

Overall, this first chapter was interesting and did make me think. I am looking forward to the rest of the book. 



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