Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review - In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

I'm rereading with a friend an excellent book "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day" by Mark Batterson. He unpacks a very small passage in 2 Samuel 23:20-21, the story of Benaiah, future bodyguard of King David. Benaiah chases a lion into a pit (on a snowy day of course) and kills it. Not a very safe (or smart?) thing to do, but Benaiah was no ordinary warrior.

The book starts with a gripping retelling of this story, and from the starts challenges the reader to not back down from fears, but to face them. Did David the shepherd like the fact that bears and lions attacked his sheep? No, he probably prayed for the safety of his sheep. But what he didn't know at the time was that this target practice in life-or-death situations was the pre-game warm-up for one of the most amazing upsets in sports history -- facing Goliath.  "It's our past problems that prepare us for future opportunities." What we don't see when we pray for safety or comfort is that sometimes if God answered our prayer, it would rob us of a great opportunity, and short-circuit His plan/purpose for our lives.

The book focuses on seven skills useful for those who would chase lions:
- Overcoming bad odds and adversity
- Unlearning fears
- Reframing our perspective on risk
- Guaranteed uncertainty
- The risk of playing it safe
- Seizing opportunities
- The importance of looking foolish

Each chapter has an excellent summary review - this is very helpful as it lets the bulk of the chapter focus on story and inspiration, while making clear takeaway point in the summary. The only difficulty I had with the book was that the challenge the author makes to live life on the edge is such a powerful and engrained part of his own personality. It's much harder for those of us made more like beavers to rise to the challenge! Some other favorite quotes:
"God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time."
"Spiritual maturity is seeing and seizing God-ordained opportunities."
"Half of spiritual growth is learning what we don't know. The other half is unlearning what we do know."
"The cure for fear of failure is not success. It's failure." (we overcome our fears by facing them)
"We should stop asking God to get us out of difficult circumstances and start asking Him what He wants us to get out of those difficult circumstances."
"God is in the business of recycling our pain and using it for someone else's gain."
"You have to be willing to look foolish in the world's eyes. If you aren't willing to look foolish, you're foolish."
Batterson wrote some other excellent books "Wild Goose Chase" and "Primal". Wild Goose Chase centers on relying on the Holy Spirit wherever He leads you rather than being stuck in a cage of routine, guilt, failure or fear. Primal is a cry inviting us to return to a more basic Christianity, something more ancient and primal, that centers around loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. In the Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day is my favorite of the three. All of these books are excellent reads, highly challenging and encouraging.

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