Book Review: In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson

I had never heard of Mark Batterson until my sister sent two of his books to me. The book came out in 2006 originally, but he updated it last year for the 10th anniversary. He’s added an additional chapter to the end of the project and makes some comments about things that have changed since originally releasing the book.

This book, In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day has a very memorable title, not because it’s particularly catchy, but because Batterson mentions the title in the text of the book about 200 times. That is the only thing that I really don’t like about the book. Other than that, it’s fantastic.

Okay… just had to get that off my chest.

Here are some solid reasons I loved this book and why I think you would do well to read it:

• It’s well researched – I learned as much from his research as I did his analysis of the research. I write this at the risk of making the book sound boring. It’s not at all. The studies he mentions are fascinating and help the reader understand the what behind the why of what Batterson suggests the reader should do.
• This book is all about chasing our lions, rather than being chased or scared by them. Batterson is trying to get his readers to take that chance they’ve always wished they would have. To step out in faith and see what God does. Even in the face of failure at unsuccessful risks, there is still a lot to be learned.
• Batterson doesn’t sugar coat his own insecurities and failures. While he has had some great success, he writes about some losses, fears, and uncertainty we all experience. However, he also writes about the rewards that would have never come without the steps of faith.
• This is far from a project where he brags about himself from cover to cover. Batterson recounts stories of several other people who have also taken steps of faith. The whole book is about how to take the steps, what they look like, and how taking them has made a world of difference for him, his community and in the lives of others.

Bottom line: By the time you’re done with this book, you will have the motivation to take that next step you’ve been afraid to take. You won’t have all of the answers, but you’ll have the inspiration you need to quit procrastinating.

Click here to buy the book

The Shack

There is a lot of theological controversy surrounding the new film “The Shack” and whether you agree with what’s being said or not, I’d like to take a few minutes to give you some tips on talking to your students about this film. Put aside the theological debates and look at the film for what it is, a fictional film. Without telling you too much about the film, let me give you some of benefits of seeing this with your students.

Many of your students will at some point face a moment in life that shakes their foundation and stirs up the “What If” and “Why Me God?” questions. The thing I appreciated most about this film is the depiction of what it looks like in our current world to wrestle with God or better yet, to be really angry with God. It’s a story of pain, suffering, and restoration. You see the ups and downs of following the Lord through a very difficult and heartbreaking situation.

There is a scene in the film where the dad enters a room and instantly begins throwing everything in sight, yelling at the Lord. Eventually he falls to his knees, sobbing as he tries to wrap his head around why the Lord would let this event happen to him. Let me just tell you, I have been in that exact place! The results of sin have taken away two very beloved family members from my life in a matter of moments. I wish I could tell you, I acted in a godly manner and turned to the Lord instantly but I didn’t. The dark days that followed that occurrence brought out some very ugly moments between the Lord and I. Moments of yelling in the shower, hoping none of roommates would hear me. Moments of laying sprawled out on my bedroom floor weeping uncontrollably because I couldn’t understand why God would let something like this happen to my family. Well, during this scene all I could think about was how my students need to realize that this kind of wrestling with the Lord is healthy, useful, and healing. It may look ugly and it may seem childish, but our relationship with the Lord needs to be authentic. Students need to know that it’s okay to come before the Lord with every emotion and work through that with the only one that truly understands those emotions.

The rest of the film works through what it’s like to journey with the Lord towards healing through our grief. Again there is a lot of theological debate around some of the things, but when we take it for just a film, we can see the power of healing through walking with the Lord and not turning to earthly things. The film depicts the restoration part of following the Lord in a way that sometimes words don’t do justice. I don’t know how many times I’ve told a student that was struggling something like this; “Surrender hourly to the plans the Lord has for you, and this difficult season will get better.” Or “Are you letting the Lord walk you through this season, or are you turning to boys and partying?” Only for the student to roll their eyes and continue on the path they were going on. This film puts on the screen everything I want to describe to a student who is struggling, or knows someone struggling.

By the end of the film you see a dad who decided to wrestle with the Lord and do the hard work to be restored, come full circle and be filled with life again. I would highly encourage you to go check out the film. Use it as a conversation starter with your students. For more advanced students, use it to talk about those deep theological debates surrounding the film. For the students struggling to make it through the day, use it as encouragement that there is hope in the Lord.

Hidden Figures

I saw the movie Hidden Figures tonight. I highly recommend this movie not only for you to see personally, but to use for a movie night with your students. Here are 5 reasons I suggest this:

  1. While not a central theme of the movie, the Christianity of the main characters was definitely included in the movie. There also wasn’t any objectionable content in the movie (not even implied). This movie is very clean. It’s rated PG.
  2. The quality of the production and acting was excellent. I was pulled into the movie and easily believed what I saw. There weren’t any quirks or distracting aspects of the movie that kept me from being fully attentive to what was happening in the story.
  3. There was plenty of humor, a few awww moments and enough drama/suspense. There’s something for the fan of any movie genre-lover in the audience.
  4. The message will lead students and leaders to have a great perspective on a dark time in our nation’s history.
  5. This movie perfectly illustrates how we, as Christians, can be strategic about how we overcome obstacles with our values in tact. You can use clips from this movie in future lessons to drive home this point.

Youth Worker Ragamuffin

The last few years God has been moving me in new directions. He’s been challenging my perspectives, priorities and approach to youth ministry. Yesterday a fellow youth worker, Kevin, gave me a movie to watch to see if I thought it would be good to show to his small group students.

I have, once again, been destroyed and challenged.

This movie is a few years old, but please take 2 hours of your time to watch the movie Ragamuffin. It’s the life story of Rich Mullins. In the movie, he encounters Brennan Manning, author of Rafamuffin Gospel a couple of times, thus the theme and title of the movie.

You will come away from this movie evaluating what’s really important in various areas of your life and impaled by the desire to focus on what really matters from an approach you probably won’t expect.