If (review)

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If: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God's What If PossibilitiesIf: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities by Mark Batterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In his newest book If, author Mark Batterson uses Romans 8 and the powerful little word “if” to challenge readers to live the Christian life with more obedience, faith, and abandonment.

Section headings “If only,” “As if,” “What if?” and “No ifs ands or buts” focus on four sides of the idea. In the “If only” section Batterson challenges us to live without regrets. In the “As if” part, the gauntlet is to live as if the unseen and invisible were true. The “What if?” parts are about dreams coming true, about the bigger-than-we-expected results of giving ourselves to God and the working of the Holy Spirit. In the “No ifs, ands or buts” Batterson gives us his bottom line—the things about which he feels there are no ifs, ands, or buts, and challenges us to name and live by our own.

Batterson explores these facets of “if” through a slice-and-dice of Romans 8 and stories (taken from history, his early life, and his experiences as a pastor of the multi-campus National Community Church of Washington DC). Each of If’s 30 chapters begins with a verse or part of a verse from Romans 8 and he also draws our attention to the prominent themes and “if” phrases of this chapter.

The writing is lively with a chummy tone that lends itself to cliché and trendy expressions. In other words, it doesn’t read like a textbook or theology tome.

The exegetical feature does make the book feel a bit rabbit-trailish as far as idea flow is concerned. Perhaps that was by design, for Batterson says in the Introduction: “If is not a systematic theology … If is not a commentary; it’s more of an impressionist painting … a landscape of faith, hope and love with right brain brush strokes” – Kindle Location (KL) 246.

I enjoyed the stories and illustration though numerous times here too I found myself puzzling over exactly how the story I was reading related to the idea or principle being discussed.

Batterson excels, though, at inventing catchy phrases and sayings. My ebook is full of highlighted passages. Here are a few:

“God has blessings for us in categories we don’t even know exist” – KL 2798.

“Our destiny has far less to do with what we do than who we become” – KL 3292.

“For better or for worse, your deepest held beliefs will define who you become” – KL 4142.

“Convictions are lessons learned from experiences we’d never want to go through again, but we wouldn’t trade for anything in the world” – KL 4161.

Full of energy, enthusiasm, faith, and challenge, If is recommended for Christians in the 20-40 crowd—or those finding themselves at a life crossroad or stuck in a backwater.

I received an ebook version of If as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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Sorry—I’m Not Sorry (review)

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Sorry I'm Not Sorry: An Honest Look at Bullying from the BullySorry I’m Not Sorry: An Honest Look at Bullying from the Bully by Nancy Rue

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When twelve-year-old Kylie, the leader of a posse of bullies, is summoned to the principal’s office of Gold Country Middle School one morning in June (along with her parents, her friends, and their parents), she’s not even nervous. That is, until she sees who else is there. Besides the principal, there is “Gingerbread,” the girl she and her friends have been bullying, and Lydia:

“…the Dwarf. Lydia Somebody. She was a weirdly short woman with too much hair who thought she could come in and stop it all” – Kindle Location 105.

The meeting that day begins a summer like no other for this privileged tween. Grounded from her cell phone and computer, she quickly loses power over Heidi and Riannon. She must also do weekly study sessions with Lydia and satisfactorily complete a project if she is to have any hope of returning to Gold Country and its cheer leading troupe in the fall. Part of the project turns out to be teaching a summer school dance performance number to a half-dozen klutzy elementary-aged girls—a real challenge for someone who is all about coolness and image.

Author Nancy Rue seems well informed about modern methods of bullying. She has the voice of a cocky tween down pat (Kylie tells the story in first-person). As the story unfolds and we work through Kylie’s issues with her, we begin to understand some of bullying’s dynamics. Kylie’s parents, with their permissive and inconsistent parenting style, may be part of the problem. And she also has some well-buried hurts and fears from early childhood that she hasn’t faced. Toward the end of the story Kylie has her own experience of being bullied, helping us experience bullying from both sides and making Sorry—I’m Not Sorry a great choice for pre-teen girls.

The Christian message is subtle. It mostly comes through Lydia who mentions, at one point, how she prays for wisdom before each session with Kylie, and models the listening ear, the love, and the firm direction that helps Kylie go from being a bully ringleader to an ardent member of the “Bullying is so not okay” movement.

I received Sorry—I’m Not Sorry as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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