… Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.The Book of Common Prayer, p. 308
Whatever the season or reason for gift-giving, these words from the Episcopal prayer for the newly baptized encourage a different mindset, a way of thinking about giving gifts that will be truly nurturing. While not all of these suggestions are overtly religious, some invite the connection to God and the Holy; others ask us to be a part of God’s transforming work in the world.
An inquiring and discerning heart:
The Episcopal Diocese of Washington (DC) has created three card decks, one for children, one for youth, and one for adults, for lively conversations about five spiritual practices of discipleship: Pray, Learn, Serve, Give, and Share. These can be used intergenerationally, at gatherings, around the dinner table, or before bed.
What is God Like? by Rachel Held Evans and Matthew Paul Turner (2021) is a beautifully illustrated picture book that uses images of God in scripture to show us glimpses of God’s expansive love for all people, everywhere.
Wholehearted Faith by Rachel Held Evans and Jeff Chu (2021) is a final book of essays by this beloved progressive Christian author, with essentially the same message as her children’s book—simply, that God’s love is without limits, conditions, or rules. Highly recommended for high school youth through adults.
The courage to will and to persevere:
Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints 2022 Wall Calendar — whether or not you have read the wonderful book of the same name by Daneen Akers, you’ll appreciate this vibrant wall calendar for all ages. Highlighting the lives of twelve holy troublemakers of different faiths who are women, LGBTQ, Black, Indigenous, and people of color, the calendar also includes “important holidays from diverse faith traditions, social justice movement anniversaries, and dates that help us remember that joy is an essential part of holy troublemaking.”
You Are Revolutionary by Cindy Wang Brandt (2021) and Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem by Amanda Gorman (2021) are two inspiring picture books for kids who are ready to change the world right now.
If there is one new book to give adults who can handle truth when it’s told with wit and grace, it’s No Cure for Being Human (and Other Truths I Need to Hear) by Kate Bowler (2021).
A spirit to know and to love you:
These olive wood holding crosses fit comfortably within the palm of an adult’s hand, and are smooth and sturdy enough for a baby to chew on.
A finger labyrinth is just the thing to center yourself wherever you are. This one is pocket-sized.
My favorite new music to stir the spirit is They’re Calling Me Home by Rhiannon Giddens (2021).
The gift of joy and wonder in all your works:
This Box of Natural Wonders is filled with unusual items to touch and see, and can be enjoyed by all ages.
The Seasons: A Year of Nature Journaling is a downloadable set of guided nature journals and a supporting curriculum that’s a wonderful way to connect to God’s creation through the seasons.
Dimming the Day: Evening Meditations for Quiet Wonder (2021) by Jennifer Grant invites youth and adults alike into contemplation and awe through the natural world, from hummingbirds to humpback whales.
Bird feeders bring joy and wonder as close as your window! This one is from the company my husband the birder says is the gold standard, but a simple one like this can be hung anywhere.
Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents.