Yesterday my oldest child came through the door flushed and rambling about the latest bit of excitement in his 7 year-old life. As he slowed down and afforded me the chance to listen, I surmised that his school was sponsoring the annual winter “Jump Rope for Heart” and that he wanted to raise money to help. He shared “sad facts” about the many children living with disease and illness, and with conviction and determination, he announced he was going to work hard to earn pledges.
My eyes pricked to see the compassion that even a second-grader can display. To imagine life through the lens of another–to empathize with hardships–and then do something about it is what I saw in my son. Because growing this trait in our kids is so important to me, I was thrilled to receive a copy of Keri Wyatt Kent’s latest book Simple Compassion: Devotions to Make a Difference in Your Neighborhood and Your World from Zondervan.
Simple Compassion is a year-long devotional laid out in four parts: Compassion Begins with You, Compassion Grows in Community, Compassion Extends beyond our Comfort Zones, and Compassion Offers God’s Love to the World. I appreciate how Kent goes on to break each of these sections into 52 weeks, providing not only a short meditation for the week, but ending with two sections on how each of us can be challenged both individually and communally.
One of Kent’s strengths is her storytelling. Time and time again she drew me in to her deep pool of emotion by writing with honesty and ending, often, with thought-provoking questions. Much of her questioning comes as a rebuff to some of the things she was taught as a child growing up in a Christian home. For example, in week 5 entitled expectations, she probes: “What does God expect, anyway? What does he want from us? The world is full of problems, and it seems like people have a lot of different ideas about what it means to follow God, about what he wants us to do. They focus on rules, sometimes. By keeping the rules, can you make God love you?” [pg. 35].
It is evident that Kent has done her research. On several occasions she shares historical tidbits that sometimes surprised me and other times gave me an “aha” moment, allowing me to view Scripture differently or understand it more fully. She is passionate about empowering Christians to join in the work of bringing the Kingdom to earth. In particular, Kent wants to see women begin to view themselves as being an important and integral role in God’s work. Too often, she asserts, women get the “little old me” syndrome and leave the work of discipling and involvement in social justice up to the men. Some readers may want to know going into this book that Kent vigorously supports her position of women in leadership and jokes about “picking a fight with conservatives” [pg. 21] on this issue. While I, too, support women in leadership and the importance of women in the Biblical story, at times her tone seemed a bit gritty.
Lastly, I went into this devotional expecting something a bit more “unisex”, perhaps because one of Kent’s back-cover reviewers was Shane Claiborne, a well-known author and promoter of living like Jesus in a literal way. Seeing a male’s thoughts displayed prominently made me assume that Simple Compassion would be something for both men or women. In my opinion, while men would certainly benefit from Kent’s creative and approachable ideas on how to put compassion into action, this book is most definitely written for a female audience.
All in all, I enjoyed Simple Compassion and plan to re-read it a week at a time as it was intended to be read. I look forward to implementing many of the author’s ideas about loving neighbors and making a difference in the world–and next door [great for kids!]. At our house, 2010 is going to be one of trying to live out Micah 6:8 in a new way:
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.