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Redeeming Love

I have just finished reading, for the third or fourth time, one of my all time favorite books, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. The first time I read this book I was in high school, it was suggested and given to me by a friend. I am so thankful that she gave me the gift, that Redeeming Love truly is. Even now, after reading this book for the third or fourth time (I rarely reread books), I want to curl back up and follow Angel’s story again from the very beginning.

This book is a rare gem that seems to help my heart with something new every single time I read it. I find myself, I find the people I love and I find God in the pages of this book. My heart and soul has been reassured that I am so loved. I have been taught how I am meant to love, the book and River’s beautiful words wrap around my heart and remind me of God’s grace and love. Even now, after reading it again, I am in awe of the beauty that I find within this book and its fictional characters. I am offered hope and I hear God’s promises whispered into my life, through the life of the main characters Angel and Michael. I have seen, every time I have read the book, parallels in my own life and have gained some knowledge and wisdom each time I have devoured it.

When I ordered the book, through my aunt’s Amazon Prime account, it must have peeked her interest because the next thing I knew she was devouring the book. As I climbed into her car this evening she and I gushed over Rivers’ beautiful tale of God’s incredible redeeming love.

The book is based loosely off the book Hosea found in the Bible (where the name Michael Hosea comes from). Set in California in 1850, Redeeming Love, follows the tragic early life of the prostitute, Angel. Michael is drawn to Angel and God calls him to make Angel his wife. Love is one of my absolute favorite topics and this book is built around just that. The book is structured around two broken humans’ relationship with one another and their relationship with God but also serves as a bigger example of God’s relentless, everlasting, ever pursuing, incredible redeeming love. We are all sinful and the book serves as a reminder that none of us are too far fallen for God’s redeeming love. The description on the back of the book reads: “A story of Love that won’t let go–no matter what.”

If you decide to read this book–I believe that you will discover some truly amazing things.  My heart continues to be changed by this book and Rivers’ stunning words.  I must say, there is material in it that is hard to handle but we can’t avoid mess, hurt and difficulty because that is what life is full of and in the messiness, hurt and difficulty we will always
find God. Despite possessing some “hard to stomach” material, this book wouldn’t be as beautiful as it is without this material. I think one gift that this book also provides is the reminder to not judge.

I hope that you will choose to pick up this book and I pray that if you do it will provide some comfort to your heart!

May the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessing and So Much Love,

Margaret

0 In Book Suggestions/ Henri Nouwen

The Return of the Prodigal Son

First off HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope and pray that 2017 is much better than 2016 for this world and for those who had a terrible 2016.

So today I want to talk about a book that truly changed my life, my faith and my heart. A few days ago I mentioned that I would be doing a mini-series discussing some of the books that I have read by Henri Nouwen. I decided to start with the book that completely shook my faith and brought me into the embrace of God in a way I had no clue was possible. Nouwen’s, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, was suggested to me way back in May 2016 by a dear friend and mentor. I didn’t have time to read The Return of the Prodigal Son then but a few months later in September I found myself still stuck in a really bad spiritual crisis so I returned to the email and read through this lovely human’s suggestions.

The email was long and stock full of incredible author and book suggestions but it is what he said about The Return of the Prodigal Son that stuck out to me. My dear friend wrote, “Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal is among the best books I’ve ever read. Probably had a lot to do with where I was at the time, but it is deep and utterly redemptive.” This dear friend is incredibly well read and for him to say that it was one of the best books he had ever read struck a cord with me. I had dabbled with Nouwen before and found his writing to be beautiful and relatable, so I gave it a try.

In desperate need of some spiritual guidance I downloaded The Return of the Prodigal Son praying that Nouwen would say something my thirsty soul and cold heart could digest. Just as my friend said, I found The Return of the Prodigal to be amongst one of the best books I have ever read (to borrow his words) and it did have a lot to do with where I was. My posts in this last year reflect, on a minor level, a soul that was darkened by discouragement, fear, anxiety, heartache and a heart that was hardened towards God and her call. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with one of my favorite people, at this time I was still only in the first few pages of The Return of the Prodigal, and I sobbed to her crying, “I am just so scared I am going to lose my faith.”

These words were uttered by a woman who was tired, hungry for God’s redeeming love and nourishment. I wrote a post not too long after that beautifully difficult conversation, this post reflected the hurt, fear, confusion and anxiety I was experiencing and it caused a lot of wonderful people to worry about me. (The post is ‘The Prodigal Son’ from September 2016, if you feel you need to go read it). That post was my first in months, inspired by Nouwen’s beautiful and honest words, my heart was able to admit to myself and my readers that I was struggling and in desperate need to go home to God. I described it as a “deep sense of homesickness for my God and for the easy communication we always had.”

As I wrote and put into words the state of my heart and my feelings I read Nouwen’s reassurances that I am God’s Beloved and God’s favor rests upon me. As I let Nouwen’s words and reassurances wrap around my heart I found that God was healing my heart.

The Return of the Prodigal Son was inspired by Rembrandt’s painting which depicts the famous scene in which a son who has strayed and become lost returns home and embraced by his loving and grace filled father. Nouwen was deeply affected by this painting and he spent time meditating upon it and ended up crafting a stunning book about returning home, returning to God.

The book is divided into three parts: The Younger Son, The Elder Son and The Father. Nouwen goes through the parable in stages. He uses the painting and the parable as overarching themes in which he connects his experiences, Rembrandt’s experiences and the younger son, older son and the father’s experiences. The heart of the parable is love. The parable reminds us that God continues to pursue us and will always welcome us home, no matter how far we have strayed. Nouwen’s words, his descriptions and his analysis wove an image in my heart and my mind. After the post, which revealed how torn up my heart was, I suddenly found myself limping home.

All I can tell you is that God used Nouwen and his beautifully crafted words to bring me home. As I turned the corner on the street I saw God waiting on the front porch to smother me in an warm and loving embrace. In my most vulnerable moment, the moment I sobbed that I was afraid I would lose my faith; God came, rescued me from the depths of despair, took me home and smothered me with love and grace.

My friend put it best, “Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal is among the best books I’ve ever read.” It may be such a fantastic and faith changing book due to the time, place and state of my heart in which I read it– but I don’t believe it was an accident that I picked up The Return of the Prodigal Son. I believe whole heartedly that it was a gift that could only come from God. Whether Divine intervention or not, I praise God for Nouwen, Rembrandt, my mentor, the parable and the incredible healing that came from this book.

If you are lost, scared and unsure of whether you can return home I strongly suggest this book. I am sure that Nouwen’s words and his reassurances will remind you of who you belong and who says, “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests” (Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son p. 37).

Describing what true homecoming is Nouwen beautifully states that, “‘coming home’ meant, for me, walking step by step toward the One who awaits me with open arms and wants to hold me in an eternal embrace” (The Return of the Prodigal Son, p. 6).

My beautiful friends, I hope that you are able to go home this year. I pray that you turn that corner and see God waiting with arms stretched wide open, welcoming you home into her loving embrace. May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and ALL MY LOVE,

Margaret

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

0 In Book Suggestions/ Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen

One of the things I wanted to have on my blog was a book suggestion or review section. Like I said in my post yesterday, I read a lot and many different books written by many different authors have shaken my faith and touched my heart. For someone who often feels a bit like the odd person out, reading books and finding authors who think like me, who are interested in the same things as me and who ask the same questions as I do reminds me that I am not so odd after all. Through my books I have found countless kindred souls and God has used these people I have never met to weave my faith into something I never imagined it could be.

One of these incredible authors is Henri Nouwen. Nouwen was an ordained Catholic priest and professor who, throughout his life, wrote 39 books (according to wikipedia). I was discussing Nouwen and his work with someone last week and I think she put it perfectly, his writing reflects his humanity. Nouwen’s work is real, brutally honest and so relatable. I think one of the things that I personally love about his writing is that while it is full of assurances of grace, unconditional love and the peace of God it is also full of the honest truth, that it is difficult to believe in unconditional love and it can be difficult to accept that we are the Beloved (Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World).

It is one of Henri Nouwen’s books and his beautiful words that recently brought me back home to God. His beautiful words have wrapped around my heart, offered me reassurances, invited me to hope and have brought me home to God not just once but many many times in the short period of time in which I discovered him. I have only read a few of his books but each one has offered my heart and soul something different. So I have decided to do a mini series in which I discuss the books I have read and how they have impacted me. I hope that you will follow along and maybe even pick up one of his many beautiful books.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and So Much Love,

Margaret

0 In Book Suggestions/ Uncategorized

Jesus Calling

When I began designing The Versatile Girl’s new home I thought of all the different sections that I wanted to add. I crave deep and grace-filled conversations. I know I miss school when I find myself hunting for books to read that will challenge my brain and will also connect to my faith. As I designed this new space I thought that it might be fun and helpful for me to review and discuss the books that have truly touched my soul and shaken up my faith. It is my dream to one day have my own library, full of comfortable chairs, book shelves, books stacked up on side tables and laid open upon chairs. The amount of books I have collected over the years suggests that this dream will one day be a reality!

When thinking about what book to begin my book review section I wasn’t entirely sure which book to begin with. I decided that one of the best books to start with is my daily devotional. I love a daily devotional, but I am incredibly picky about which ones I use. Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence has been my trusty sidekick for the last three-ish years. It has traveled with me all over the US and even internationally to France, Scotland and England. Although I have gone through this little devotional three times it still remains relevant and always seems to say something new to me.

Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, is rooted in scripture and has guided me to incredible passages that I have clung to and read over and over. Young’s words have reminded me to open my hands when I am squeezing them shut and the daily devotions seem to somehow connect perfectly to my life no matter what is going on (I am not the only person who finds this to be true, a dear friend also uses Jesus Calling and has mentioned how perfect the devotions always seem to be).

Sarah Young’s faith story is truly a remarkable one, she discusses how she came to know Jesus in the introduction to the devotional which you MUST read!! The introduction is something many people usually skip over, something I was guilty of until a college professor taught me how useful the information found in the intro is. Jesus Calling‘s introduction is no different, you have to read it to understand how Young came to write these incredible words. A short summary is that she began meditating on God, she listened to the things God laid upon her heart and recorded what was spoken to her. She wrote these amazing messages and combined them into this wonderful 365 day devotional.

The messages are short, simple and to the point. It is a fantastic devotional, one that I continually come back to. Jesus Calling is available in book form, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Adroid forms. There is also a teen and children’s version. Just the other day I was in Barnes and Noble and I discovered Young had published another 365 day devotional entitled, Jesus Always. After spending 1,095 days with Jesus Calling I have high hopes for Jesus Always.

May the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and SO MUCH LOVE,

Margaret