Dear Church Family, 

No, I’m not writing while sitting on a sunny beach! Don’t worry, I wrote this before my sabbatical started! wink 

I wanted to reach out and say thank you for the gift of this sabbatical. I’m committed to stewarding it well. I’m so grateful to be in a church community that values “sabbath” and cares for its pastors and their families. It means everything to Paula and me to be “sent”—rather than begrudgingly released—by you. Thank you for praying for us a few Sundays ago, at the most recent Engine Room, and throughout the summer. Please pray for us. We know our time away will not be fruitful without your prayers.  

I have full confidence that the Lord will continue to pour out his blessings on our church in my absence. We have such a capable and God-dependent leadership team. You’re in good hands. And Good Hands. I know you will be fed fantastically by Pastor Yancie’s preaching. Pastor Irwyn’s, too. I wish I could be there to learn from them together with you. And I know you will be fed by being in community together. The tragic passings of celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bordain are a much needed reminder that too often people are doing a lot worse than you might think. We’re so vulnerable. Check in with each other this summer. Love well. God is mighty to save.  

The summer will pass quickly, as summers always do. But before departing, I wanted to leave you with one way you can deepen your spiritual growth this summer: by reading good books! Here are a few that might be of interest to you: 

2018 Summer Reading List 

The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship 
A readable but solid book on the biblical meaning of friendship and the challenges to our modern lives present to building friendship. 

Union With Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God 
We encounter the theological idea of “union with Christ” all over the New Testament (“in Christ”), but barely understand what it means. In fact, it’s a key to understanding how the gospel answers some of life’s most fundamental questions about identity, destiny, and purpose in life: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I headed? How will I get there?  

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption 
An award winning true story about Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit, and his lawyer Bryan Stevenson (author), who learns about the potential for mercy to redeem us and issues a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice. Read this book in community; see Daniel Lautzenheiser or Christian Back for more! 

You are What You Love: The Power of Spiritual Habit 
Award-winning author and theologian James K.A. Smith explores how, what we desire and who and what we worship fundamentally shapes our hearts. “What you love” is the “imagination station” that incubates our loves and longings—whether its source is God or the surrounding culture. 

God’s Very Good Idea: A True Story of God’s Delightfully Different Family 
One for the kids! A fantastic overview of the story of the gospel (how God made us, how sin hurts us, how Christ redeems us, etc.) but through the lens of God’s plan for ethnic difference and diversity in his people. Well illustrated, great conversation-starter with your kids.  

So, go for it! Pick one. Read it yourself. Gather some friends and read it in community. Make the most of the summer days to grow in your love for Christ! 

See you soon, family, 

Duke