Primal by Mark Batterson.... A Book Review

This month, I had the honor and privilege of receiving a book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers (a division of Random House) for my review. The book is called Primal… and is the latest writing by Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. As you can imagine, I was extremely excited about this opportunity, but had no idea just how much this book would change my life! Before I start my review, here is the description from the publisher:

Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity by Mark Batterson

Our generation needs a reformation.
But a single person won’t lead it.
A single event won’t define it.
Our reformation will be a movement of reformers living creatively, compassionately, courageously for the cause of Christ.

This reformation will not be born of a new discovery.  It will be the rediscovery of something old, something ancient.

Something primal.

What would your Christianity look like if it was stripped down to the simplest, rawest, purest faith possible? You would have more, not less. You would have the beginning of a new reformation—in your generation, your church, your own soul. You would have primal Christianity.

This book is an invitation to become part of a reformation movement. It is an invitation to rediscover the compassion, wonder, curiosity, and energy that turned the world upside down two thousand years ago. It is an invitation to be astonished again.

The Basics of Primal...
Love the Lord your God with all your HEART, all your SOUL, all your MIND, and all your STRENGTH! - Matthew 22:37

The HEART of Christianity speaks of having a holy COMPASSION! Our hearts should break for the things that break the heart of God!

The SOUL of Christianity is in looking for the WONDER of God’s creation and scripture. One of my favorite sentences in this entire book is the following: “Awed silence in the presence of divine beauty is a form of worship that is often deeper and truer than sung words.” 

The MIND of Christianity reminds us that we must be passionately CURIOUS! A good summary of this section is the following from Mark: “We need fewer commentators and more innovators. We need fewer critics and more creators. We need fewer imitators and more dreamers.” He also challenges us to rethink the "taking our thoughts captive"... it means MORE than just taking captive the negative thoughts and sins…

The STRENGTH of Christianity can be summarized best in two different quotes from Mark:
  • "Pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on you."
  • "Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention.” (I'm reminded of a song... as I usually am! Listen to "Something Big" by John Waller.)
    We are called to reflect God… His compassion (heart), His wonder (soul), His creativity (mind), and His energy (strength)!

    My final thoughts about Primal
    Primal delivered everything that I expected… and more. As I started reading, I was drawn in by the challenge of stripping everything in life down to the basics. As I continued to read… the more challenged I became in my Christian walk… the more determined I became to pull every lesson possible from this book! It also grew incredibly clear that the entire point of Primal is to call us to a life based on The Great Commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”

    Nothing more.

    Nothing less.

    Mark writes in a way that speaks deeply to hearts and minds. Primal is a book that can be read quickly, but should be given more time to digest. There is so much meat inside… so much that we can learn… It is not primarily a book about “how to grow a greater church” but instead “how to become a better disciple”. However, if we all begin to live the principles in Primal, I believe we will see the church experiencing a reformation like we have never seen before!

    This is a great book to start off your reading for the new year… I truly believe this is the first “must read” of 2010!

    If you would like to purchase Primal, you can purchase directly from Random House:

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    Refiner's Fire

    1 Peter 1:6-9
    In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved for various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith - the salvation of your souls.

    Some thoughts from Sheila Walsh about this passage that really spoke to me:

    "When gold is refined, it is a fiery process that separates what is true from the flaws and impurities that have become one with it. The process is faithful, but it is temporary. We are called to more. We are impressed with gold and fine jewels, but God is blessed by faith that has come through fire hot enough to burn away what cannot last in His kingdom. At times we are so blistered by the blaze, it seems no good can come out of this fire. In those moments, we must hold on by faith to what we know is true. When we cling to Jesus at the height of the inferno, we will see when the furnace has cooled what is left is faith - pure, genuine, and honoring to Christ."
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    still, part 2 of 2

    The journey that led me to October 2, 2009, was one that I have kept pretty quiet... until now. God allows everything that comes into our lives for a reason, and if we keep all of our struggles inside, how can we help others get through the tough times? So here we go...
    It started out as a surprise on Monday, August 17. I went to the doctor and got the news… SURPRISE! We’re pregnant! It certainly wasn’t planned, but we were extremely excited... more than we thought we would be. So, we started planning... quietly. We decided to wait until we went to the doctor for our 1st ultrasound before we told anyone outside of family and very close friends. For 3 1/2 weeks, we were filled with thoughts of... a new addition to the family... boy or girl?... due in April!... will this be our last child?... need to find a bigger house!

    Our first ultrasound was set for Thursday, September 10. Jeff and I sat in joyful anticipation as we waited for the nurse to call us.

    Amazing how emotions can change…

    As the technician pulled up the pictures on the screen, we giggled as we looked at the head, arms, legs, etc. Obviously, the baby was small at this point, but you could still make it out. The tech seemed to be focusing on something, and then finally she said, “I'm having trouble finding a heartbeat.” By now, I was about 8 weeks pregnant, so the heartbeat should definitely have been detected. After looking at one more screen, she turned off the monitor and just told us how sorry she was. Within 15 minutes, our excitement suddenly turned to shock and utter sorrow.

    The next step was to wait for the inevitable miscarriage. For 3 symptom-free weeks, my inner struggle grew deeper and deeper. Could the doctor have been wrong? There were so many emotions… confusion, sorrow, guilt, anger, frustration, pain, indifference... numbness... too many to really explain.

    On Sunday, September 27, reality hit. I began to have signs that ultimately led up to Friday, October 2. When I actually lost the baby that Friday night, it was incredibly difficult, physically and emotionally. My amazing husband helped me through it... helped me to understand the situation for what it was.

    This was my second miscarriage. The first was October 22, 2006... in between Jeffrey and Katherine. We again grieved the loss of this precious baby, and also thanked God for our two beautiful children... knowing more than ever that they are both here for a purpose!

    What started out as an incredibly difficult weekend became a blessing in disguise. I was able to celebrate “new life” by sharing in the experience of a very dear friend’s wedding on Saturday evening. On Sunday morning, hidden behind my guitar, I experienced an incredible time of personal worship... At a time when I had wanted to ask “Why, God?”... all He wanted was for me to be still. As we worshiped to that special song, Still, it became crystal clear that God works together every little detail. Maybe the details don’t always turn out as our finite minds would have imagined, but GOD works ALL THINGS together to accomplish HIS greater purpose!

    We were never promised that it would be easy. We were never promised that difficult circumstances would not come into our lives. “Peace like a river” does not mean the water is always “still” on the outside. A river progresses through several different levels of rapids as it winds down its path... at least on the surface. But deep down, at the foundation, it is always... still.

    Be still and know that I am God...” Psalm 46:10
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    still, part 1 of 2

    This is going to be a 2-part blog, starting with the words to a special song... The past few weeks have been a journey for me, which I will explain more in part 2 of this blog... This song is an incredible reminder of the fact that God is ALWAYS in control and He wants us to just be still and know He is God! As you read, think about the words and how our loving Father wants to speak to you through them...


    Hide me now under Your wing
    Cover me within Your mighty hand

    When the oceans rise and thunders roar
    I will soar with You above the storm
    Father, You are King over the flood
    I will be still and know You are God

    Find rest, my soul, in Christ alone
    Know His power in quietness and trust

    When the oceans rise and thunders roar
    I will soar with You above the storm
    Father, You are King over the flood
    I will be still and know You are God

    I will be still, I will be still
    Be still... Be still and know
    I will be still... I will be still
    Be still... Be still and know
    Be still and know YOU are GOD

    Find rest, my soul, in Christ alone
    Know His power in quietness and trust

    When the oceans rise and thunders roar
    I will soar with You above the storm
    Father, You are King over the flood
    I will be still and know You are God

    I will be still and know You are God
    I will be still and know You are God

    "Be still and know that I am God..." Psalm 46:10
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    when you miss...

    Tonight was a “date night” for Jeffrey and me. On our way to putt-putt, he kept endlessly reminding me of how he was going to beat me! Those of you who have been following this blog know that I am the “competitive perfectionist”. Well, maybe I let go of that a little tonight.

    For about 3 holes, I was focused on trying to get him to hold his club right, to stand on the right side (he hasn’t figured out that he’s not left-handed), and to TAKE HIS TIME!! After screaming “TAKE YOUR TIME” about 30 times, I finally decided to just let him play. Amazing how much more fun we both had when it didn’t matter how he hit the ball. I saw how precious it is to watch a 3-year-old just enjoy playing for fun… with Mommy. I mean, it won’t be long before we are deep into the competitive side of sports anyway, and then will I be missing these days?

    I got lots of hugs and love tonight... but I also got a bonus... as usual, Jeffrey had one of his profound messages that always inspire me. He kept running to stand with me every time he finished putting… and one time, he looked at me and said, “Mommy, can I stand with you when you miss?” And of course, I responded with, “Yes, of course you can. You can always stand with me.” His response was simple and heartwarming... “Mommy, God stands with you when you miss, too.”

    How in the world were we blessed with two such precious children? God is so good. Just remember the words of an innocent 3-year-old… God stands with you when you miss.

    No wonder Jeffrey is becoming the inspiration for a lot of my writing…

    The Hard Is What Makes It Great

    "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great!"
    -Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own

    One of my favorite quotes… one of my favorite actors… one of my favorite movies. If you are not as obsessed with baseball as I am, you may have missed “A League of Their Own.” It's Hollywood's version of the AAPGBL (All-American Girls Professional Baseball League), a women's baseball league set up during the war from the 1940s to the early 1950s. At one time in my life (about 12 years ago), I actually wanted to try out for the Colorado women’s professional baseball team. I know, crazy dream… one of many that I never chased after.

    Some recent things in my world have gotten me thinking more about this quote, and my mind has gone back to times in my life when I have let the “hard” keep me from going after my dreams. One in particular was during my freshman year at ECU. During the first couple of weeks of the semester, I actually went to the first day of tryouts for the tennis team. There were 6 of us trying out for 1 spot, and instead of giving it my all, I quit after the first day. Chicken.

    No more looking back. From this moment on, I cannot allow the "hard" of something to keep me from giving my all. My spiritual walk is a prime example of this. Satan has been after me all week. Sometimes, I feel like I just keep banging my head against the wall... 1 step forward, 2 steps back.

    The same mistakes. The same selfish ambitions. The same self-consuming thoughts. The same pride.

    Over and over again...

    This cycle seems too "hard" to break. And in my OWN strength, it is.

    God never told us that His way would be easy. He only told us that He would see us through. HE alone is our strength. HE alone is our creator and HE created each one of us with a purpose. If we are too afraid to go through the "hard", how can we really see His true purpose for our lives? This is a challenge to go forward... stop looking back... do what HE wants you to do, no matter how tough, no matter what it takes. The only way to true LIFE is to push on through the hard parts, letting HIM lead you! Don't be chicken!

    "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." - 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

    "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!" - Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)
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    pride... the cheater

    I've spent some time with King Uzziah tonight in the book of 2 Chronicles. What an incredible reminder of how pride can take over our lives! It's time to stop the "cheater" of pride before it destroys us! The following is an incredible poem by Beth Moore:

    "My Name Is Pride"

    My name is Pride. I am a cheater.

    I cheat you of your God-given destiny…
    because you demand your own way.
    I cheat you of contentment…
    because you “deserve better than this.”
    I cheat you of knowledge…
    because you already know it all.
    I cheat you of healing…
    because you are too full of you to forgive.
    I cheat you of holiness…
    because you refuse to admit when you are wrong.
    I cheat you of vision…
    because you’d rather look in the mirror than out a window.
    I cheat you of genuine friendship…
    because nobody’s going to know the real you.
    I cheat you of love…
    because real romance demands sacrifice.
    I cheat you of greatness in heaven…
    because you refuse to wash another’s feet on earth.
    I cheat you of God’s glory…
    because I convinced you to seek your own.
    My name is Pride. I am a cheater.
    You like me because you think I’m always looking out for you.
    I’m looking to make a fool of you.
    God has so much for you, I admit, but don’t worry…
    If you stick with me you’ll never know.

    But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." - James 4:6 (NASB)

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    we fall down... we lay our "crafts"

    Sometimes, our kids give us perspective-changing moments that make us realize just how smart they really are...

    Jeffrey gave me one tonight.

    We were on our way home from church, and he started singing "We Fall Down." He sang it like this, "We fall down, we lay our crafts at the feet of Jesus." Well, as you all know, I am quite the perfectionist, and one of my pet peeves is wrong lyrics. Interesting how a precious 3-year-old can change that.

    After trying to correct him... oh... maybe 20 times (and listening to him tell me over and over again that he was right), I finally just let him sing it his way. The funny thing is... I started thinking about the word "crafts"... Hmm... we lay our crafts at the feet of Jesus? What CRAFTS have I been trying to "show off" to Jesus lately? What have I done in my own strength and then tried to convince Him that it was His idea? Wow... God speaks to us in so many different ways, and I believe He was talking to me tonight through our persistent, persuasive little Jeffrey.

    After giving this some more thought throughout the night, I think I like Jeffrey's word better. I want to lay all of MY "crafts" at Jesus' feet.... let them go... let go of my own strength... and let HIM decide what "crafts" HE wants to accomplish through me.

    (If you are reading this on Facebook, click on the link below to go to my blog and watch Jeffrey sing "We Fall Down"... his way.)


    Selfish Ambition... and a "C-D" :o)

    I am a nut about personality tests!! Every time I come across one that I haven't taken before, I have to see what new thing I can find out about myself! :)

    At Center Grove, we have a class called "PLACE". When you take it, you'll find out quite a bit about yourself, including personality type, spiritual gifts, abilities, passions, etc... everyone should take it.

    My personality type is a "C"... analytical, conscientious... but I have almost as much "D" in me... drive. Basically, I am a competitive perfectionist. Does anyone else find it ironic that I am a "C-D"? :) Anyway, the combination of these 2 personality types can be good, as long as they are controlled by the Spirit. However, if they are controlled by the flesh, they can be a very dangerous thing.

    As I have seen the "D" in me come out strongly over the past couple of weeks, I have sensed it controlling me more and more. The competitive drive leads me to go after something that I want... and sometimes, it comes out as wanting my way no matter what it takes.

    We all have desires, and as we learned last night from Dr. Corts, we all have a "glove" that fits us perfectly. When you want something in life (maybe your "glove"), there comes a point when you have done all you can do to try to "make" it happen, and you have to just LET IT GO and let God work. If HE wants it for you, He'll make it happen! BE STILL!

    This morning, I cried out to God to break me of this "selfish ambition" that I have been allowing to control me. It's not about me, it's about Him, and if something is not glorifying Him... it should not have a place in my life. My best friend asked me not long ago, "if it's not God's will, do you really want it anyway?" Hmmm...NO! I just have to remind myself of that sometimes...

    What is controlling you? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to control your "personality type"? Or are you letting selfish ambition creep in and guide your thoughts, words, and actions? I want to challenge all of us to really dig deep and check our motives BEFORE moving...

    Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. -
    Philippians 2:3
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    after the mountaintop

    It's been one of those weeks where I need this reminder, a simple song with a powerful message:

    Falling on my knees in worship
    giving all I am to seek Your face
    Lord, all I am is Yours

    My whole life I place in Your hands
    God of mercy, humbled I bow down
    In Your presence at Your throne

    I called, You answered...
    and You came to my rescue and I
    wanna be where You are...

    My whole life I place in Your hands
    God of mercy, humbled I bow down
    in Your presence, at Your throne

    I called, You answered...
    and You came to my rescue and I
    wanna be where You are...

    In my life, be lifted high
    In our world, be lifted high
    In our love, be lifted high
    -"Came To My Rescue" - Hillsong United

    Nothing that we "accomplish" is of our own strength... God is in complete control of everything. This past Sunday, we were on the mountain. God showed Himself so clearly, yet today I confess that I have let "self" get the best of me... I am so thankful for His grace. I am so thankful for His unconditional love. Even when I mess up, He still loves me and accepts me the same.
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    hopeless romantic...

    I love romantic comedies. I would venture to say that most females (including myself) live for the “magic moment” in these movies… you know, when the perfect-looking “Ken” and the perfect-looking “Barbie” just “know” and then they kiss. Here are some of my favorite magic moments…
    • 27 Dresses – “I cried like a baby at the Keller wedding.”
    • 13 Going on 30 – after they jump off the swings
    • You’ve Got Mail – “I wanted it to be you SO badly!”
    • A Walk to Remember – “I think I might kiss you." “I might be bad at it.” “That’s not possible.”
    And the list goes on and on… Especially today, on Valentine’s Day, I have wanted to watch whatever romantic comedies are on TV!!! Why is it that we like to watch stories about other people’s lives so much??

    Obviously, real life is not like the movies… I am a firm believer that Hollywood is one of Satan’s biggest schemes. We can let ourselves get so caught up in the “perfect world” we love on the big screen that we miss the incredible life God has given us… I have been guilty of this many times in my life.

    Just a challenge on Valentine’s Day to really think about and appreciate what you’ve got. I am a perfectionist (sometimes to the extreme), so this reminder is as much for myself as it is for anyone else… If we demand and expect too much perfection, we really can miss what is right in front of our faces. Life is hard, but God is good, and we all have SO MUCH to be thankful for! I don't know about you, but I want to be the "hopeless romantic" toward the wonderful man God has blessed me with!!
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    Practice Makes Perfect

    Make sure to read the thoughts below the song...

    "Grace" by Laura Story

    My heart is so proud;
    My mind is so unfocused.
    I see the things You do through me
    as great things I have done.

    But now You gently break me
    and lovingly You take me.
    You hold me as my Father
    and mold me as my Maker.

    I ask You, "How many times 
    will You pick me up 
    when I keep on letting You down?" 

    And each time I will fall 
    short of Your glory;
    how far will forgiveness abound? 

    And You answer, "My child, I love you, 
    and as long as You're seeking My face, 
    you'll walk in the power 
    of My daily sufficient grace."

    Sometimes I may grow weak
    and feel a bit discouraged,
    knowing that someone, somewhere
    could do a better job.

    For who am I to serve You?
    I know I don't deserve You.
    But that's the part
    that burns in my heart
    and keeps me hanging on.

    I ask You, "How many times
    will You pick me up
    when I keep on letting you down?"

    And each time I will fall
    short of Your glory;
    how far will forgiveness abound?

    And You answer, "My child, I love you,
    and as long as you're seeking My face,
    you'll walk in the power
    of My daily sufficient grace."

    You are so patient with me, Lord.

    As I walk with You, I'm learning
    what Your grace really means.
    The price that I could never pay
    was paid at Calvary.

    So instead of trying to repay You,
    I'm learning to simply obey You
    by giving up my life to You
    for all that You've given to me.

    I ask You, "How many times 
    will You pick me up 
    when I keep on letting You down?" 

    And each time I will fall 
    short of Your glory; 
    how far will forgiveness abound? 

    And You answer, "My child, I love you, 
    and as long as You're seeking My face, 
    you'll walk in the power 
    of My daily sufficient grace."

    When looking for a song to sing, I really try to seek what God wants for me...I feel so blessed that He allows me to sing for Him. There was a time that I sang for myself, and He has given me a second chance, as He has about so many things in my life...I have said this many times this week: "If ever there was a song that is my testimony, this is it."

    As I was frantically trying to find sheet music, accompaniment, or at the very least some chords for the song I WANTED to sing this week, God literally put this one in my lap. It was one of those things you can't ignore and can't get out of your head. One of those God moments that gives you chills.

    Today, little Jeffrey asked me, "Mommy, can we listen to 'How Many Times Will You Pick Me Up?'" Hmmm.... my little man had been listening to Mommy practicing. I thought about how "practice makes perfect" and how "little eyes are watching" and how ingrained in our minds things can become. Jeffrey knew the words because he had been LISTENING to it OVER and OVER again. What a life lesson from this precious little guy...

    A good friend told me just last night that the Word has to become so much a part of our lives that it is ingrained in our minds and hearts. What if I focused on God's Word as much as I focused on practicing my song last week? What if my heart truly sought His heart? How many times will He have to "pick me up" when I keep on letting Him down? As I continue down this road of life, I learn more and more that practice really does make perfect...

    "Your Word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You." -Psalm 119:11
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    Glass Half Full... A Perspective Change

    Some of you read on Facebook that I have had a “perspective change”… Here is a little about the mental transformation that I have experienced in the past week or so:

    The "Glass Half Full" mentality... I've never really had it. I'm the one who picks apart the movie after I see it... the constant critic. Instead of seeing the overall beauty of something, I will see the details that really don't matter in the big scheme of things. Pardon the cliché, but I miss the forest for the trees. Yes, I am a detail person; and yes, we need detail people in life, but I have come to understand the possibility of being a detail person and still seeing God's big picture.

    In one area of my life, I have been battling a constant frustration with things not being done exactly the way I think they should be. We all have situations in our lives like this. My mind has been constantly critical, keeping me from remembering one very important fact: GOD IS ULTIMATELY IN CONTROL! He is going to have His way, and there is a REASON for every little detail. Even when I think things could be done better, He always knows. God has truly walked me through several very obvious instances where He has shown me just how big He is… just how REAL He is!!! In about a week’s time, my focus has gone from “this needs to be changed” to “how is God going to use this in the big picture?” As He has become more and more real to me, an inner joy has started to grow, allowing me to experience more passionate worship.

    God has chosen to work in me and through me, but also IN SPITE of me. In spite of my imperfections. In spite of my "last-minute" ways. He has placed me in a position of total submission… And by the way, all of those little details I work so hard to try to get right MYSELF? He already has them planned out. God is so good!

    So, all this to say, I am now able to see my glass as half full. God has placed me here to be His vessel, and He allows me to experience every situation in life so He can teach me. God doesn't need a "teaching moment." EVERY moment is His, and He is constantly reminding us that He is in control.

    "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. - Isaiah 55:8

    One Call...

    One call can change your life.

    Fortunately, the call I got Monday afternoon was not as devastating as it could have been. Over the past few days, my mind has been processing the "what if" possibilities of Katherine falling all the way down the stairs at her sitter's house. As you can see from the picture, she is fine, with just a few scrapes and bruises. The understanding of what could have been is almost too much to bear, but it awakens me to the stark reality that God has a reason for allowing this to happen.

    The gamut of emotions my heart has worked through has been endless... pain, frustration, anger, fear, gratefulness, utter joy that she is still here... along with the overwhelming obsession to watch her every move, not wanting to take anything for granted ever again!

    Yes, I know the cliche, "these things happen," but I also know that things happen for a reason. This was a wake-up call for me, one that I have needed for a long time. God is calling me to get my priorities right.

    Don't wait until you receive that "one call" to wake up... Let God become the priority He wants to be in your life... And while you're at it, let Him reorganize your other priorities as well.

    "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." - Jeremiah 29:13
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