I don’t usually go for coffee table books. My coffee table is for practical things like my tea mug and the book I am currently reading. I don’t believe in dusting around decorations. But when I attended the Zondervan reception at Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Writing (ages ago, it seems, before I became a grandmother again), I was given a copy of their new release, Selections from One Thousand Gifts; Finding Joy in What Really Matters.
I find a kindred spirit in Ann Voskamp. I keep a list of things for which I am grateful. Recently they have been things such as tiny fingers and toes, the love my daughter and her husband have for each other and their commitment to raise little Simeon to love Jesus. No one challenged me to define a thousand things; I just wanted to find one each day—one unique thing to thank God for. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,” says the prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22, 23, “for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” Then comes the line from one of my favorite old hymns: Great is your faithfulness.
“I am a hunter of beauty,” Ann writes (p.53), “and I move slow and keep eyes wide, every fiber of every muscle sensing all wonder, and this is the thrill of the hunt.
“I hunger to taste life.
“To taste God.”
I have been surprised at how difficult it is to get the kids in my Sunday school class to think of anything for which they are thankful beyond their parents, food and life in general.
“Which foods?” I ask. Someone adds “pizza” to our list.
“What about life?” I ask. They shrug.
Ann Voskamp pushes me not to give up trying to instill in these fourth and fifth graders an awareness of God’s gifts.
The book has inspired an iPhone app. It includes a daily quote and then a chance to add a picture and/or text to your own numbered list. (Take the picture first if you want both. I haven’t found a way to add a picture if I write the text first.) I wonder if my Sunday school kids would be motivated by watching the numbers climb. Maybe if I let them type on my phone....
Ann Voskamp’s list came out of tragedy. Some of her theology may not quite jibe with yours. She is a poetic writer whose style is not for everyone. (Some of the reviews on Amazon of the original best-seller are scathing.) But in the small pieces of these selections, I find them not just eye-opening, but soul-opening. Her photographs are exquisite. The script of the items on her list gives a touch of intimacy; the decorations on the page enhance the whole; in short, this is a beautiful piece of book-making. It will find a place in my house, not on the coffee table where it would only get shoved aside to make room for the latest Smithsonian or National Geographic, but someplace where I can pick it up and read it in small bites like the bedside (or even the bathroom) and be reminded of why I keep searching for specific people, events, gifts and answers to prayer for which to thank God and see his hand in my life.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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