Voskamp vs Pohl on Gratitude

I would recommend Pohl’s three chapters on gratitude to all those who recommend or ask about Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts

One thing that I have noticed is how different Pohl’s writing on gratitude is to another very popular book on the topic. It has perplexed me how even prominent voices in the Reformed community have helped to promote Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, despite the concerning theological problems in her teaching on gratitude. It led me to conclude that maybe gratitude is a topic that hasn’t been written about enough.  

 

A couple of weeks ago I shared some thoughts I had after reading Christine Pohl’s first chapter to her book Living Into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us. Particularly, I questioned whether the wider, Reformed-ish community is sustainable.  After now finishing her first three chapters on gratitude, I have found some rich teaching that has led me to further reflection. I like a book that makes me think further on my own.

One thing that I have noticed is how different Pohl’s writing on gratitude is to another very popular book on the topic. It has perplexed me how even prominent voices in the Reformed community have helped to promote Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, despite the concerning theological problems in her teaching on gratitude. It led me to conclude that maybe gratitude is a topic that hasn’t been written about enough.

Besides the writing style, one stark difference that I find between Pohl’s approach to teaching about gratitude and VosKamp’s is that Pohl is discussing gratitude as a practice within a community in response to our gratitude for God, whereas VosKamp’s approach is more an individualistic means to experience her own personal fullness of salvation. In just three chapters, I was both encouraged and challenged by Pohl. She first addresses how gratitude is a function of being made in the image of God, along with noting humility in our capacity to be thankful in hard times when we don’t have all the answers, and the ungrateful postures of dissatisfaction and entitlement. Her second chapter on gratitude covers complications that come along with gratitude in relationships, such as manipulation in giving, dependence on another in receiving a gift, the connections between gratitude and justice, and practicing gratitude in a community of broken people. She then gets into the practical applications of what weakens and strengthens gratitude.

Pohl said something that stuck with me when discussing how our busyness and ambitions hinder our capacity to pause and take notice of God’s gifts. She mentioned “important but overlooked connections between Sabbath and gratitude” (30). Pohl wrote this in her closing of Chapter Two, but I found myself wanting to read a whole chapter, or even book, on those connections. Within the context that she was addressing, Pohl explains, “Schedules have no space to accommodate things going wrong, and we are unable to receive any gift that might come in the form of an interruption” (30). This is a good observation. Sunday does come as an interruption to us. As we are busy serving in our vocations, we tend to fall into our default of building our own kingdoms. But our Sabbath worship is an interruption of the age to come that is breaking into this age that is wasting away. And we are reminded that we are receivers.

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