Book Review: Simple Compassion: Devotions to Make a Difference in Your Neighborhood and Your World.

UPDATE: Book Drawing is now closed. Congratulations to Azure, who wrote:

I want to involve my young kids in acts of compassion. They are only 3 and 6, so they don’t really understand financial giving. Our small group volunteers at a food kitchen twice a year, but our family only contributes monetarily because they don’t allow kids under 12. We had a “LemonAid” stand today through TeamKids.org. The money will go to a local organization that works to eliminate discrimination and prejudice in honor of MLK Day. I’m not sure how much they understood, but it’s a start!

Azure, you are the winner! Contact me with your address and I will send the book to you. Enjoy!

You know how you feel when you find out your good friend has never heard of one of your favorite authors? The thrill you get from introducing them and the pang of jealousy that your friend gets to experience the books for the first time? That’s how I feel about Keri Wyatt Kent and her books. Every single one can transform your life if you let it. And her newest book, Simple Compassion: Devotions to Make a Difference in Your Neighborhood and Your World, is no exception.

Simple Compassion is a bit different from Keri’s other books, in that it’s designed to be read as a devotional, just one chapter per week for a year. It is, in her own words, “a guide toward becoming a more compassionate person, a person who doesn’t just talk about faith or social justice but is trying to live it out.” (Simple Compassion, p. 9, introduction.) Whether you read it alone or in a small group, you will find inspiration to live a more compassionate life and ideas to step out and put that compassion into action. I am finding that every chapter I read increases my awareness of those struggling around me, and it keeps compassion at the forefront of my mind as I read the passages week to week. In the introduction, Keri explains the format of the book as follows: “The first quarter of the book will focus on understanding our own worth (as deeply loved children of God) as a starting point for understanding the worth of others. In the second quarter, we’ll look at simple ways to show compassion to those closest to us: our family and our neighbors. From there, the ripples continue to extend; in the third quarter of the book, we’ll consider how to bring God’s kingdom to a wider geographic area: the poor in our cities and towns. Finally, the last quarter of the book will offer steps of compassion on a global scale.” (Simple Compassion, p. 10, introduction.)

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook God’s heart for the world around us. We get busy raising our families and volunteering at our churches and living our lives, and we forget that Jesus’ heart broke for the poor, the needy, the oppressed. Those were his people. That was his mission…to bring hope to the hopeless and life to the dying, both physically and spiritually. How can we, in whatever position God has placed us in our lives, live out compassion for others as Jesus did? Below is an interview with Keri which answers that question, among others.

Interview with author Keri Wyatt Kent:

  • Peaceliving: Keri, this book is a bit different from the others you’ve written. What compelled you to write Simple Compassion?
  • KWK: Every book I write is driven by the questions in my own life, and this book is no exception. As I read the Scriptures, I kept seeing God’s heart for the poor and marginalized in ways I hadn’t noticed before (and I started reading the Bible literally when I first learned to read). I wanted to explore what it meant to act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8) from where God had put me (as a suburban soccer mom). I knew I could grow in compassion and pursue justice without moving to Africa or the inner city, but I wanted to figure out how. I’m still in process but this is some of my ponderings on the issue.
  • Peaceliving: What are a few first steps towards Simple Compassion that you can recommend for those new to it?
  • KWK: I’d recommend going to one of those Bible websites, and doing a word search on “poor” and read all the verses that come up. Reflect on God’s heart for all people, especially those who are poor. Become aware of the poor who may be hidden in plain sight in your own neighborhood. Visit a food pantry as close to your house as possible. Talk to the staff and volunteers–what are the situations of people who come there to get some groceries? Learn the stories of people who are struggling. The book offers some important steps to increase your awareness of issues facing people in your backyard and around the world. I’d also add that in the book, I stress that becoming aware of your own potential to make a difference is an essential first step. If we don’t believe we can make a difference to help others in the name of Jesus, then we won’t ever take steps to do so. We have to believe we are called and equipped to change things, if only for one person.
  • Peaceliving: How can busy moms with little ones implement Simple Compassion in a meaningful way?
  • KWK: I think you can include small kids in certain compassion acts. Even just going through their toys several times a year, and asking which ones they would like to give away to kids who don’t have any toys. Also, making a habit of having them help you pack up their outgrown clothes to give to friends. We had several families as my kids were growing who gladly received my kid’s gently used clothes. If you have really small kids, one of the most important places you will show compassion is in your own home. Caring for very small children is hard work and good training for giving care to others. If you can’t love your family, you won’t have an easier time loving people in need. In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about offering food, clothing, shelter, and just our loving presence to the “least of these” means we do those things for him. Our children, especially when they are small, are “the least of these” and if we see our feeding, clothing, and caring for them as something we do for Jesus, we will grow in compassion.
  • Peaceliving: There are a lot of great ideas in your book for groups to take action…do you have any recommendations for how an individual can implement the ideas if they’re reading Simple Compassion on their own?
  • KWK: I really believe that American Christians especially do far too much “on their own” which limits our effectiveness to impact the world. Christianity is meant to be lived in community. But I realize that is sometimes difficult. Each chapter has both compassion step (individual) and a community (group) step. So, all of the community steps (the group stuff) can be done on your own. Just journal and reflect on the questions, or go out and do some of the activities on your own. But I’d say the best step for someone reading it on their own is to invite someone else to read it (and live it!) with them!

I’m so thankful to Keri for being faithful to God’s calling in her life to nurture others through her writing, and of course, for another great book to help guide us in our spiritual journeys. Would you like to win a copy of Simple Compassion today? I’m giving away a copy to one lucky reader, to be announced on Sunday evening. Just leave a comment here telling me an action step you’d like to incorporate into your life to grow your compassion this year. If you post about this giveaway on your blog or on facebook, leave a second comment to let me know and you’ll get a second entry into the drawing!

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13 thoughts on “Book Review: Simple Compassion: Devotions to Make a Difference in Your Neighborhood and Your World.

  1. As a director of children’s ministry, one of the most basic ways we show love to children is by seeing them as Christ does. It’s not so hard to do on Sunday, however, in day to day life I haven’t always approached compassion to others in that manner. The Lord has challenged me to show simple compassion by choosing to see others as Jesus does. From the checkout line at the grocery store, to our local foodbank, that will make a world of difference in my life (and already has).

  2. I guess I mostly want to be less focused on myself… and also to see people through God’s eyes (^ ditto Heather ^). I love the song “Give Me Your Eyes” by Brandon Heath.

  3. Linn,
    Thanks again for the wonderful review and for inviting me to be “interviewed” here on your fabulous blog.
    I love what Mikki said about seeing people as God does. A changed perspective is the first step to changing our actions.
    thanks!!
    Keri

  4. When I was the mother of three young children who didn’t realize how hard it was to be a “good mother” and a husband who often didn’t notice how much work I put into making our house a home, I remember thinking “these people don’t deserve all I do for them”, but what would inspire me to keep on doing what I knew was right and best for our family was that Jesus did deserve all the hard work I was doing and so I would do it for Him.

  5. I’m excited about the opportunity God has given me to work in Hospice care now. Also when I get anxious about whether I’ll successful or able to handle the change in schedule I can rest in the fact that He is with me and that it may hurt during the processes but God’s yoke is easy and burden is light. I think it is important to not take on all suffering around you and be so overwhelmed that you can’t move. I also like that Keri encourages us to work in community because we are stronger as a body.

  6. wow, i can honestly say that this book is not something i would normally pick up to purchase, but i am definitely going to start reading it! and i love the slow style of it…right up my alley! 🙂

    • oops, i didn’t write how i will incorporate compassion in my life this year. i guess i have used my children’s ages as an excuse the past 4 years because i really haven’t reached out to my community in a way i am comfortable with. i was raised to do this and it has gotten far away from me being a young mom of little ones (aside from donating to Salvation Army). i am catholic and my husband and i used to be on the catholic charities junior league. i miss packing lunches for the homeless among other events we’d volunteer for. So, my goal this year is to get back involved with that organization. thank you Linn & Kerri for the inspiration to do so.

  7. Wow, compassion has been on my mind so much recently. We started on a budget a few months back, and it really hit me how little we give and do for others. I want to do more, but it is hard to know where to start and how much to do, especially with a husband in super savings mode. I would love to read her book!

  8. I want to involve my young kids in acts of compassion. They are only 3 and 6, so they don’t really understand financial giving. Our small group volunteers at a food kitchen twice a year, but our family only contributes monetarily because they don’t allow kids under 12. We had a “LemonAid” stand today through TeamKids.org. The money will go to a local organization that works to eliminate discrimination and prejudice in honor of MLK Day. I’m not sure how much they understood, but it’s a start!

  9. Ha ha, my 6 year old doesn’t want to give up the LemonAid money and says that she’s not doing that ever again! Self-centered little buggers, aren’t we? I think I need that book!

  10. Hi Linn,
    I decided to pop over here and see your blog after you left a comment on mine. I LOVE the message of this book (I need to remember to be more compassionate!), and can’t wait to read it, will be getting it even if I don’t win! My kids are collecting pennies for Haiti through our parish, and will be collecting supplies when they are ready for drop-offs. Great blog! Love it!

  11. I’m not saying this is a new resolve. Rather its an enhanced outlook on why I should do the old resolve to speedily respond to people’s emails. I’ve been like a black well into which people toss their mail. Even if it’s something someone has simply forwarded, it is a motion toward me. I should at least say “got it”. These are members of my community (cyber),that I don’t need to search out. Often those in our circle are suffering in private and a small friendly “pat” means more than usual. In railroad talk, I’m on track and need to keep up the steam to “move it down the line”.

  12. This book sounds like something I need to read…haven’t met my next door neighbors yet…and they moved in months ago. I’d say that’s on the top of my list of “getting out” in my neighborhood.

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