Monday, January 25, 2016

Greater: the story of Brandon Burlsworth- from walk-on to Razorback

First off, let me be clear that I'm not a football fan, I don't follow high school, college or pro football, so I almost said 'no' when the kind folks at Grace Hill Media offered me the opportunity to watch the movie "Greater"  ahead of its release and write a review.  But in that invitation there was also enough of a hint that this was more than football involved in this movie. And that element of faith was what drew me in.

Greater, a movie which releases on the 29th of this month is the story of Brandon Burlsworth, who wanted, from an early age, to be an Arkansas Razorback.  Of course there was no way this was going to happen, based on his football skills and abilities, but someone saw something in this young man who refused to take 'no' for an answer, and when on to become, according to a press release,  'the greatest walk-on in the history of college football". 

Throughout the film one can't help but be impressed with Burlsworth's dedication. Even when suggestions on how he might improve are made with a hint of sarcasm, he takes them at face value and when he achieves the goal, heads back with that bubbling spirit, that says "OK, I did that, what's next?"

His dad is pretty much out of the picture,  lots of brief appearances followed by broken promises, but he has the unwavering support of his mother, and the sometimes reluctant support  of a much older brother.  And a constant faith in God which gets him through heartbreak after heartbreak.

There are many scenes of Brandon on the practice field earlier than any of his team mates, and staying later, but each day starts with him reading the bible, and every weekend sees him making the drive home from college to accompany his mother to church.  

What makes Brandon's faith standout is not how he tried to prove that he had it, but the simple fact of how he lived it. As time went on the team members who made fun of him for his glasses, his faith, his weight,  or any other reason, saw how he responded and started following his example.  They started going with him to Bible studies, and their lives changed as a result  of his unwavering faith.
The press release (remember I don't follow football in any form) states:  "Eleven days after being drafted into the NFL and before he was able to sign the contract that would have changed the financial status of his family forever, Brandon died in a car accident on his way home. His death stunned the state: He did everything right, and yet he was snatched away before he and his family could enjoy the fruits of his labor."

But the legacy lives on through the charitable foundations founded in his name. Scholarships are given,  and  walk-ons are much more likely to play ball.

Bring the Kleenex!

You change the community - the community changes you

LĂ©once B. Crump, Jr. has written an important piece of what I might call the grow where "you're planted" narrative.  Renovate: Changing Who You Are by Loving Where You Are (Multnomah Books, 2016)   There is a growing body of work suggesting that in many cases it' important to be a part of the community where you live, and use the neighborhood relationships that you've built to share the gospel, to plant a church (traditional or non-traditional) and in doing so reflect Christ and God's plan to draw us to Him.

But Crump takes it a step further,  and suggests that when you are obedient to God's call to be an integral part of the community, it may be you rather than the community that changes.  And as important as it might seem to change the culture of a neighborhood, it's also important for each of us on a personal level to see our own hearts changed.  And amid the ups and downs of trying to plant a church, that seems to be what happened to Crump.

I particularly liked the chapters titled "A Theology of Place" and "The Sanity of Sentness".  In a way that was very real to me, Crump has pointed out once again just how important it is to realize that the various Great Commission passages in the Gospels and in Acts,  indicate that sometimes going to the ends of the earth has to start in our own Jerusalem. I'm not trying to diminish the need for missionaries to travel to other places, but sometimes we have to think about the pre-Christians in our own neighborhoods, and share with them before we, or perhaps they get on a plane for a far off land.

I read an Advance Reading Copy of this book, so I was careful not to indicate pages numbers which might change before the final version is printed.  The book was provided by the publisher in exchange for my review; there was no obligation to write a positive review. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

IF by Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson, an author whose other books have brought me great reading enjoyment,  has a new book If: Trading Your 'If Only' Regrets for God's 'What If' Possibilities (Baker Books, 2015).
This book is a journey through the 8th chapter of the New Testament book of Romans, or as Batterson calls it the "Great Eight".   
As much as I have enjoyed Batterson's other books, I had trouble with this one. The premise is great: God has great things in store for us, but all too often we get bogged down in what we can't do rather than what God can do.  He has lots of examples, biblical, historical and personal, as well as some examples of how the church where he serves as Pastor has seen God at work in so many different ways.
There are two  main complaints with this book. One is that so many of the examples are things that have appeared in other books, and the second is that, for my tastes, it lacks the  cohesiveness of some of the other books by this author.
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.