On the Bookshelf: Primal by Mark Batterson

Cover of "Primal: A Quest for the Lost So...

Cover via Amazon

Can Christianity be stripped of centuries of traditions to reveal its primal elements — those very characteristics that drew thousands on the day of Pentecost?

In his book, Primal: The Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, Mark Batterson contends that it can, but he doesn’t go to the church of Acts 2. He steps further back to the teaching of Jesus himself. Using the great commandment as his outline, Batterson explores what it means to love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. Drawing examples from the trials of growing and living through the great commandment at various stages of the growth of his church, National Community Church, shows what the commandment might look like in practice in community.

In the end, Batterson distills pages of creative dissertation and vivid imagery into what he believes is the simple rallying cry of the next reformation: Love God.

This is one of those books that brings theory and practical examples together seamlessly. Personally, I appreciated most that Batterson drew these examples not just from the “church” world but also from literature and social sciences.

One last thing … don’t think this is a book for church leaders only. It’s a book for any follower of Christ who wants to explore the kind of faith that turned the world on its ear 2,000 years ago. Frankly, looking at the news these days, this world could use a little turning.

Thanks to Multnomah’s Blogging for Books program for providing me with a copy of this book for review. If you like this review or find it helpful, please click here and rate it at Multnomah’s site.

On the bookshelf: You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth

If you’ve spent any time in the “Christian Living” section of the local bookstore, you’ve seen dozens of books bearing the message that you are special as a daughter of God. If you’re like me, they’ve left you yearning for a little more than an injection of self-esteem with some Biblical references tossed in.

Enter Holley Gerth.

Holley’s book, You’re Already Amazing, deftly combines Biblical concepts with the knowledge and experience gleaned over the years as a licensed counselor to encourage all women to embrace “who you are, becoming all God created you to be” – as the subtitle said. Sprinkled with exercises to discover various aspects of your personality, Holley concludes with a powerful chapter reminding each of us of God’s many promises to us as his daughters:

  • that we were made for this time and place
  • all we are can be used for God
  • all things really are possible
  • we don’t have to do more
  • we can live differently
  • we are loved
  • God does have a plan for us.

What I appreciated most about Holley’s approach was the exploration of different personality types. In one chapter, for example, she discusses how we connect with people by presenting different scenarios and the ways in which different personality types would react. Not only could I find my own personality type (which was often a smattering of two of them) but I also could identify co-workers and friends in the other types.

If you’re caught in the comparison trap or laboring under the burden of feeling that you have to do more or be more, grab a cup of coffee, a highlighter pen and Holley’s book … and come away relieved.

A voice from the storm

I worked late tonight. It’s been a long day at the start of what promises to be a long week. I said goodnight to my coworker and flopped into the car, breathing a heavy sigh as I turned on the ignition and backed out of my parking space.

The radio was on but I wasn’t really listening. I was already thinking about what I had to do when I got home if I had any hopes of getting to bed early.

Then a word caught my attention – Afghanistan.

The man calling in to make a request was in Afghanistan and he wanted to hear a song. I’m not going to pretend to know how that happened or if the show was pre-recorded or what.

Like the DJ, I thought that I soldier charged with protecting supply lines would want to hear something a little more hardcore. Skillet? Thousand Foot Krutch?

But he asked for Casting CrownsPraise You In This Storm. It gets the guys through the day, he says. They’ve had a lot of losses recently and the song helps.

To be honest, I’ve kind of tired of the song. It seemed like every time I turned on the radio it was playing. This time was different. This time the DJ said goodbye to the soldier on the other end of the phone – the soldier half a world away fighting a war that’s gone on for a decade. This time the song became an anthem, a prayer, a whirlwind of thoughts.

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day

God, I was sure by now you would have reached down and brought these men and women home. You can do that. Bring us peace …

But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

Raining bullets and danger on soldiers who are doing their job but desperately want to see their families again …

As the thunder rolls

As the IED explodes and the crowds shout insults …

I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

So much taken away … so many friends … lost … yet you are there … and here …

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am

On an Afghani mountainside or in a too-silent house on a military base

And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

Lord, my day seems so simple, so easy when I think about what this soldier faced today. But I know you’re walking me through the mundane steps of my day just as you are guiding him through the valley of the shadow of death. I’m sorry that I forget about that. May your peace settle in our hearts tonight and may peace be realized in your creation. Amen.

To the cretin in the pick-up truck …

English: A red bike lane on the side of a high...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m compelled to write this missive to you – an unknown, faceless figure who poked his head out of the window of a pick-up truck past its prime (but not its primer.)

You were driving down a main street in town. I was safely pedaling in the bike lane.

The you made this noise. I suspect it was meant to be a shout of some sort. I’m not naive enough to think it was pleasant.

But I’m fairly certain that physics was never your strong point.

The first clue was the condition of the smoke-billowing conveyance in which you were a passenger.

The second was your blatant disregard of the effect of said smoke-billowing conveyance’s motion on your voice. Simply put, the motion of the vehicle combined with the excessive decibels at which you attempted to communicate rendered your Neanderthal musings incoherent.

Please understand that this does not mean that I need or want you to repeat your message as I suspect it is one that I have heard before from similar people who directly correlate their manhood to the loudness of their muffler.

Just remember this … someday you’ll be standing at a gas station pumping precious fuel into your guzzling gas tank while I ride by thinking of all the money I am saving and the calories I am burning.

Maybe I’ll slow down and shout something at you.

Don’t worry. I’ll speak slowly so you can understand.