Tuesday, October 25, 2016

In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson

I had heard of and seen this book in various places over the years, but I never thought it would be for me.  The subtitle states "How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars".  My primary job title is Mom, and I'm not career-oriented, so how many big opportunities are really going to come my way?  What I found is that this book speaks to any challenges in life, not just opportunities in the career field.  Mark Batterson writes in a very engaging and relevant manner, and I did lots of highlighting!  This book offers insight and can infuse you with courage to tackle whatever challenges you are facing right now.

The title and theme of this book comes from 2 Samuel 23:20-21 which briefly tells of Benaiah chasing a lion down into a pit on a snowy day and killing it.  Most people would have done the exact opposite and ran away.  Whether you agree that chasing a lion into a pit is a courageous act or a stupid move is up to you - but the result for Benaiah is that it led to a position of high rank within King David's administration.  If he would have run away, his safety would have been guaranteed, but he might have missed the blessing and future opportunities for influence.

I doubt I will ever encounter a lion.  (And if I did, I would definitely not chase it!)  However, there are situations I face where fear threatens to overwhelm me and I would rather change direction than face it head-on.  That is where the book's message hits home.  Mark writes "Lion chasers don't let their fears or doubts keep them from doing what God has called them to do."  He encourages us to unlearn our fears and reset our perspectives.  He goes on to say "The goal of faith is not the elimination of risk...We won't regret the mistakes we made as much as the God-ordained opportunities we missed."  I was encouraged from the stories shared in this book and reminded of some important truths.  I don't want to miss out on what God has in store for me.

For those of you like me who like to play it safe, this book will give you a nudge toward taking those first risky steps.  Keep a pen or high-lighter handy...you will need it!

*I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Open by David Gregory

Open is a short fictional story that leads a person to think about his/her understanding of the Christian life and spiritual growth.  The main character, Emma, is going through a challenging time in her life and is having doubts and feelings that many of us can relate to.  She knows what she has been told: God is enough to satisfy you...reading the Bible will guide and comfort you. But what do you do when those things that are supposed to happen are not a reality in your life?  You read the Bible and can't relate.  You are not satisfied.  You can't deny that your feelings are not in line with what you've been told.  This is where we find Emma.

The story is based around Emma receiving a letter that tells her to go through the nearest open door for an adventure with Jesus.  When she does this, she is transported back in time, witnessing firsthand some of the stories told in the gospels.   She is able to gain a better perspective of what these encounters with Jesus meant for the people involved, and begins to see her own story in them.  Emma also has several conversations with Jesus, opening her eyes to the true path of spiritual growth.

I was asked to share in this review how I related to the character's experience with Jesus.  There have definitely been times in my journey that my spiritual life has felt empty when compared to what I hear others have experienced.  I've learned over the years not to compare...that one person's plan for spiritual growth/connecting with Jesus may not work for another.  I could relate to this truth that Jesus shared with Emma in the story.  He says "The only one who can make you grow spiritually, Emma, who can make you more like me - is me.  Spiritual disciplines in themselves have no power to transform you...I'm not telling you not to do them.  They can be vital.  But they only benefit you if they keep you focused on me.  On me personally, not as a concept...They're simply to help you know me, the faithful one who loves you perfectly and acts on your behalf powerfully."  It reminded me that relationship, not checking things off a to-do list, is the way to grow.

If you like short books that give you something to ponder, you will enjoy this one.  It doesn't have a lot of character development like you would find in a longer story, but just enough background to allow you to find common ground with Emma and go along on the "adventure".

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Civil War

Being a mother of boys, superhero movies have always been a favorite in our family.  Two of the newest movies released this past summer have a similar theme: Civil War.  Our heroes are now fighting each other, losing sight of the true enemy.  As I was watching Captain America: Civil War last night, I was struck by what the villain said...something along the lines of "I knew I couldn't kill them.  But if I could get them to kill each other..."  From the outside looking in, it's easy for us to see that heroes fighting each other is a waste.  (Except for entertaining the males in my family!)  Not only are they causing each other harm, but it is distracting them from the real danger!  Heroes should be united!

Then I got to thinking...is our enemy's strategy really all that different?  Doesn't he seek to isolate and divide us, letting us damage each other in ways that he never could?  He subtly plants distrust, secrecy, taking easy offense, holding grudges, unforgiveness, and pride.  Countries are at war.  Spouses and families are divided.  Churches are divided.  Friendships are thwarted.  And we do it to ourselves!  Families are meant to be united, weathering storms together.  Churches are meant to stand united against the devil's schemes.  We can easily see while watching a movie how sad it is to let misunderstandings and false assumptions destroy relationships, but it's so much harder to detect in our own lives.

Let's take a lesson from these movies: learn to recognize the real enemy.
United We Stand.  Divided We Fall.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
-Ephesians 6:12