Rest, Tenderness, and Compassion (And a Giveaway)

Saturday, June 19, 2021  ::   3 important comments

Chad and I recently got away for a month long mini-sabbatical. I'm not sure I'll write about the ins and outs of our time away, but I can tell you God met us with his tenderness and compassion in Scripture, through nature, in our marriage, and even in the books we chose to bring with us. But I can't resist sharing just a bit so enjoy a few Hawaii photos before I get to the real point. 
So much exploring! I love how happy we both look in this photo. 

We also went out on fancy dates to eat the freshest seafood of our lives. 

I wish I was sitting right in this spot right at this minute. 

Ok, to cut straight to the real point of this post, the theme of our month away emerged as resting in God's love for us. It sounds so churchy, doesn't it? Like something a Sunday School teacher tells a child? Ask anyone who follows Jesus, "Does God love you?" and they will quickly and assuredly reply, "Oh, yes, of course, unconditionally." They may even be able to quote a couple of Bible verses at you. But, if you ask the same follower of Jesus, "How are you experiencing God's love for you?" they may flounder and hem and haw. Maybe it's a scheme of the enemy to convince us to dismiss the enormity of God's love so that we hustle, bustle, and struggle all of our days. Maybe our shame struggles tell us we are unloveable. Maybe the difficulties and sufferings of life overwhelm us to the point of denying God's love. There are many factors to be sure. To actually know this great love, to be filled to the measure of the fullness of God's love is one of my personal quests. Read that again slowly: to be filled to the measure of the fullness of God. (For more info about this, read Ephesians 3:14-21.) 

The good news is that God loves when his children are on a quest to know his love so he has been answering my heart's cry. I couldn't have imagined how my book journey over the last two months would be so comforting and healing and powerful. One book flowed with love and grace into the next. I did not personally plan this, but I do believe God provided rest for me, even in the books I read leading up to and during sabbatical. We boarded the plane knowing we needed rest and praying God would give it to us. The beauty came in how he provided rest for our very souls. 

The following are books that both Chad and I read. We read them separately and in a different order. It was very fun reading the same books and provided rich conversation. I won't be able to do justice to the work God did in my heart about his steadfast and unfailing love for me because it was a spiritual, personal work. However, I do hope that it piques your interest, better yet, creates a longing to be on your own quest to know his great, great love. Maybe you can choose one or two of these books to read. I hope you will. 

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves 

I actually read this book before our break, but it set the stage for the other books I read. In my opinion, this is a must read for Christians. I promise it will strengthen your faith in ways you didn't know you needed to be strengthened. Reeves explains God's unfailing, steadfast love through the relationship of the Trinity —God the Father, Jesus the Son, and Holy Spirit — in profound and understandable ways. "But [the Holy Spirit's] real work is to bring us to, and keep us in, the sunshine of God's love. It is there that we will sing heartily; it is there, abiding in Christ that we will bear fruit. The Spirit shares the triune life of God by bringing God's children into the mutual delight of the Father and the Son — and there we become like our God: fruitful and life-giving." 

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Fiction is hard for me. I know, I know. Many of you are appalled by my lack of literary sophistication. I'm trying to learn and grow in this area. I knew I wanted to start my sabbatical time with fiction. A leader I deeply respect ranks Gilead in his top 20 all-time favorites which is how I decided to read it. It was a gentle book, an old pastor writing about his life to his son. Reading the words of an old minister strangely encouraged me to stay the course even as a middle-aged minister. This simple book even gave me insight as a mom of adult kids. I think I will reread it at some point, but it was a tender book which helped me start my respite. 

A Burning in my Bones by Eugene Peterson 

If you enjoy biographies, read this asap. So so good. To flow from Gilead, a fictional story about an old minister, into the true story of Eugene Peterson was perfection. I've read many of Pastor Eugene's books, so to have behind the scenes insight into his life added richness and depth to my respect for him. And guess what. He was a man with regular human struggles like all of us. Sometimes I subconsciously wonder if I'm ministering incorrectly because it's so hard. This book reminded me that it is hard for everyone, even famous pastors who endured to the very end. As recounted by someone he ministered to: "Eugene's faithful presence and insistence to wait with me before God brought about deliverance that only comes when someone really moves into the neighborhood of one's soul and decides to stay, to love and care. Too many Christian ministers get impatient with slow learners and profoundly broken people like me. But Eugene didn't. He stayed around, confident that God would heal and restore and mend." May God enable me to stay around and watch God heal and restore and mend. 

God of All Things by Andrew Wilson 

Talk about a total, joy-inducing book! The subtitle of this one is Rediscovering the Sacred in an Everyday World. The words are an accurate description but they certainly don't pack the punch that the actual book does. I've already bought two copies to give away. If you need help lifting your head out of the muck of life, this book will help you. When you read Delighting in the Trinity you will learn that God creates everything out of the overflow of his very magnificent love. This book will tell you about some of the extraordinary stuff God has created! You will learn about dust and stones and honey and galaxies and flowers and trumpets and cities and more. "Everything in creation has theological implications, and one of the joys of being human is figuring out what they are." "Things exist not for their own sakes but to draw us back to God." "Creation preaches to us. The things of God reveal the God of things." There are 30 chapters which means you can even read this as a devotional, one short chapter using the Old and New Testament to describe God's love for us through creation. Soooo good. 

Quick book review break: This is just to say even as I'm writing about these books I'm finding myself overwhelmed with gratitude for what God did in my heart and mind through them. I remember reading God of All Things as a turtle swam by in front of me. Hearing, feeling, and knowing God's love produced deep peace in my soul. In Hawaii I discovered an unexplainable joy in sea turtles. I saw and swam with more than I could count. Every time I saw one I fully took it in just in case it was my last. During one ocean swim I asked God if I could see another one. His delight in my question washed over me and he showed me I was like a child asking her Father, "Again, again, again!" And he allowed me to see turtles even up to a few hours before we boarded our plane home. God of all things indeed. 

All Things New by John Eldredge 

I brought this book along because it is about Jesus' returning and once and for all establishing his kingdom and all its glory. After the pandemic, political, and racial destruction of the last year and a half, I figured it would provide perspective and hope. Eldredge explains the difference between casual hopes, precious hopes, and ultimate hopes. He takes you on a scriptural journey to explain the rewards God's children will enjoy someday. He finishes the book with helping readers look deep into their longings for heaven and think about the details of your heart's desire in being with God forever. God of All Things enabled me to look to creation to experience God's love for me and All Things New enabled me to look to Christ's return for ultimate hope in knowing God loves me. "If you woke up each morning and your heart leapt with hope, knowing that the renewal of all things was just around the corner —might even come today —you would be one happy person." Amen. 

Marriage in the Middle by Dorothy Littell Greco 

This summer Chad and I will celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary. We are both nearing 50. (Chad would want all of you to know that I'm closer to 50 than he is because he likes to be a funny guy.) We have 4 adult kids. We are officially middle-aged. This book was enjoyable to read out loud to each other. Every chapter has discussion questions at the end which we mostly enjoyed talking through (I only cried a few times.) If you've been married 20+ years, get this book and do a health check on your marriage. Our time away together grew our love for each other which is part of me understanding God's love for me. It's all connected. 

Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund 

I finished the books I brought to read so even though I read this one six months ago, I decided to read it again. It was the perfect book to solidify all that God did in my heart in one short month. Like many of you, I've felt deep pain and relational loss over this last year and half. Compassion fatigue and heavy loneliness have plagued me. Throughout the exhale of the month, I felt God restoring patience, compassion, and love for people in my life and ministry. To wrap up the month, even though I had already read it, God used this book to remind me of his gentle and lowly heart toward me. "When the relationship goes sour, when the feelings of futility come flooding in, when it feels like life is passing us by, when it seems that our one shot at significance has slipped through out fingers, when we can't sort out our emotions, when the longtime friend lets us down, when we feel deeply misunderstood, when we are laughed at by the impressive—in short, when the fallenness of the world closes in on us and makes us want to throw in the towel—there, right there, we have a Friend who knows exactly what such a testing feels like, and sits close to us, embraces us. With us. Solidarity." It isn't an exaggeration to say, in the middle of most chapters, I closed the book, swam out into the deep water, and floated in the waves of God's love. More times than not, my salty tears mingled with the salty ocean. Psalm 90:14 says, "Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days." God gave me a tangible experience through the clear waters of the Pacific to remember his steadfast, unfailing love for me. True, real, all-encompassing, just like the ocean. 


I would be remiss to not tell you how God moved in my heart through his very Word. This year I switched Bible translations to the Christian Standard Bible. To familiarize myself with the pages and words of my new Bible I'm reading it in chronological order. Because of other circumstances, I was behind on the plan. (Side note: God doesn't care if you aren't on schedule. Let it go, friend. He just wants to spend time with you in Scripture.) Of all places, Deuteronomy moved me. God so faithfully provided for his people though his commands which enabled them to know and trust him. In the end of the book, God tells them/us the commands are not too difficult or beyond reach, that they are not meaningless words but "they are your life" and that "the Lord your God is your life." Deuteronomy reminded me over and over that through the last 30 years of my life, his Word has been life to me, teaching me to love him and showing me that he loves me. I still have so much to learn, and God used this book of the Bible to remind me that he is a faithful God, righteous and true, and the One worthy of life-long pursuit. 

Thank you for reading about my reading journey. I've thumbed through my highlights in each book several times. It provides a good exhale and smile each time. God is loving and faithful in more ways than we can ask or imagine, through books, relationships, nature, but most importantly through his very own self given to us. 

If you could choose two books from my list, which would you read? Would you like an opportunity to win a couple of books? If you know me, you know I love to give away books I love! So much love to share. 

To be entered in a drawing, leave a comment on this post, Facebook, or Instagram. Share what books from my list you'd like to read and why or share what book you've recently read that helped you grow and change. (You must share a real comment to be entered in the drawing, not just your name or "I like books." Don't be lame.) In a week or two I'll draw THREE names because as I already said, I love to give away books I love, especially books that may help you understand more fully how much God loves you. 

May God tangibly show you his great and unfailing love for you today, this week, this month, no matter what you are facing. "Go to Jesus. All that means is, open yourself up to him. Let him love you." Dane Ortland, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers