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Coming Back to God When You Feel Empty: Whispers of Restoration From the Book of Ruth Paperback – 2 Feb 2015

5.0 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 62 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2 Feb. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1507685351
  • ISBN-13: 978-1507685358
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 0.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 386,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Tanya Marlow was formerly a lecturer in Biblical Theology, and in Christian ministry for a decade. Now housebound with severe ME, she maintains a writing ministry from her bed. Defying the usual stereotype of a vicar's wife (she is terrible at flower-arranging and quiche-baking), she lives in a vicarage in South-West England with her husband, son, and a collection of dying pot plants, and can be found at http://tanyamarlow.com.

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"In 2010, I gained a baby, and lost the ability to walk more than twenty metres." So begins Tanya Marlow in this thought-provoking look at the book of Ruth. She interweaves her story of life with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME - or chronic fatigue syndrome, as it's commonly known Stateside) with that of two women from centuries past - Naomi and Ruth.

When we look at this biblical account, usually we focus on Ruth - the young widow who commits to her mother-in-law, making her home in a foreign land, such the depth of her love. We skip over the bitter old woman, Naomi, who is reeling from loss and is definitely disappointed with God. But Tanya explores - gently - how we mirror Naomi, and yet how God showers us with his love. (And she doesn't miss out on gleaning encouragements from Ruth's story either.)

Coming Back to God When You Feel Empty is a short but satisfying read. Read it for the poetic language; read it for the insights this story from old can shine into our lives today; read it for the emphasis on prayer and a God who loves us.
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I would heartily recommend this little book. Tanya has such a warm, readable style, which combined with small chapters make it ideal - particularly if you are facing a tough time and struggling to connect with lengthier/heavier reads. What I especially love about Tanya is her ability to boil everything down to what is of most importance - some "Christian lifestyle" books (for want of a better term!) are waffley and ultimately have little impact. Not so with Tanya. Each chapter ends with reflection questions which I found helpful both personally and while discussing Ruth with friends. Definitely pointed me towards God and challenged me in how I face hardship in my life - relying on myself or turning to my loving Father. Does what it says on the tin.
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Loved loved loved this. If you feel a bit of distance from God having gone through difficult times, or even if you haven't , this is a lovely pick- you-up. It raises questions and poses suggestions about our relationships with God, particularly in bleak times, and the author draws on her own experiences of loss, doubt and also times of celebration to make her points. Through it all like a gentle strumming note is the example of the story of Ruth, but also, and crucially, the story of imperfect Naomi. Insightful but without being "preachy" this is a scrummy read which I devoured in one sitting. More please!
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"Less is more" they say and that is definitely the case with Tanya's little book... there is such a depth and clarity and fresh insight through what she's given us in this book, and yet there is no padding or repetition - because it's not needed! I recommend treasuring a chapter each day (or even over two days) because otherwise you'll miss the profundity, the chance to put into practice Tanya's suggestions and then be disappointed that it's over already.
As other reviewers have said this would be an easy book to give to others who are feeling burned out, desperate or disappointed because it's not just theory for Tanya and she offers us the practical tools not make her insights real in our lives too.
On a side note I was chuffed Naomi's experience was given a more positive emphasis, although I love the meaning of my name, I was always a little ambiguous about her example, until now :)
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"Coming Back to God..." is split into 5 easy to digest chapters, each focusing on a different section of Ruth and an associated theme. The journey of Naomi and Ruth from empty brokenness to God's provision is an easy parallel to what many of us face in ordinary life, and that's where this book is so applicable. We feel the things they felt, we often deal with our problems the way they dealt with them, but above all God is still the same God.

What makes this piece particularly touching is how Marlow intertwines anecdotes from her own life to illustrate the thoughts. Dealing with issues like bitterness or anger in the face of loss, she is never judgemental or condemning. Instead she gently shows how she herself faces these issues, and yet God's patience and provision have enabled her to grow - just like Naomi and Ruth. It's not that she's providing "answers" - for topics like this any answers would be somewhat trite. No; Marlow has clearly faced a lot of hard times, and has just the right tone for people who need understanding as they work through finding God in a dark place.

Each chapter finishes with a set of thought-provoking questions (which make it perfect for a small group discussion) and some creative exercises which put the themes into practice. Interwoven as it is with personal stories and practical applications, it's the kind of Bible study which is accessible for those without an academic mindset.
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A really fabulous little book. Tanya takes characters from the book of Ruth and skilfully combines their stories with her own experience living with severe M.E. I love the new slants she puts on Boaz and Naomi. Boaz is honest and generous in a society where people of his station often are not, an example of how justice should be done - with overflowing profound grace. Tanya tells of her own feelings about being in need and reliant on others and on authority, and how Boaz's example of being the giver of benefits is such a Godly example to follow. And how his actions as a generous giver need to challenge us - they certainly did me through reading this book.

I love the way Tanya explores the character of Naomi in more depth. In the past, studies on Ruth I have read have tended to concentrate on Ruth, and forget a little about Naomi and the situation she was in - one of bitterness and despair. She's in a position of weakness and powerlessness, and Tanya weaves that in with her own situation of being weak and powerless in her disease. We are able to look at Naomi's actions and emotions in a new way and I found her story striking and powerful. From abandoned bitterness to someone cloaked in kindness and generosity. 'Naomi is the secret heroine,' writes Tanya.

The book is structured helpfully with questions at the close of each section; it could be used as a group resource as well as for personal reading. I, as someone also severely restricted by health difficulties, found it a restorative and challenging piece of writing and heartily recommend it to anyone, and am looking forward to Tanya's next book.
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