I’ve never read a book quite like A Trip around the Sun. Picture two guys — good friends on camera and off — moving with easy, relaxed conversation from one topic to another before an audience in a cozy, intimate studio. That’s the atmosphere created by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth, as they weave into their collective story the hard lessons and moments of crisis along with the neon threads of dream fulfillment and the gift of adventure.
Dick Foth is all about people, whether it’s a fisherman off the coast of Cape Hatteras or a tall, skinny college kid. He engages people in conversations that are life changing for them — and for him! More introverted and scholarly by comparison, Mark Batterson tends to live inside his head, and he shares the insights he has gained from study, family life and his years as a pastor/church planter. Through these varied lenses, the authors examine two life-times of adventures that have shaped their believing and their thinking. Here are my top five take-aways from common threads that run throughout the book:
- Marriage and parenting are exceptional teachers. Foth has served as a college president, and Batterson has two masters degrees and a doctorate under his belt, but both attest to the fact that they have experienced their greatest learning through their wives and kids. “With” is their most important preposition, for what you do is not nearly as important as whether you are doing it “with” the right person. I loved Mark’s idea of paying his kids every time he uses one of their stories in a sermon illustration. (Apparently the going rate is $5 per mention, but if it’s embarrassing, it pays $20.)
- Gratitude makes everyday count. Like Mark, I also keep a journal for numbering my blessings. He calls it having a “grateful eye” and likens this to “the good eye” in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The Apostle Paul redeems some of Qui-Gon Jinn’s “Star Wars theology” with Philippians 4:8: “Your focus determines your reality,” or, more biblically, “whatever is true, honest, just, pure, noble, lovely — think on these things” — and be thankful!
- Aging is an adventure! As his mentor and friend, Foth is teaching Batterson that every trip around the sun is a gift. Even near death experiences are valuable because they teach us how to live. The message is this: commit right now to becoming a life-long learner because “every ‘ology’ is a branch of theology.”
- Mentoring and being mentored is the key to success, which Mark defines as “when those who know you best respect you most.” Both of the authors trace their own professional success stories to a chain of godly men and women who graciously poured themselves out for the benefit of others.
- There is absolutely nothing that can’t be lived as an adventure. Mark and Dick have spent their ministry-lives hanging around modern-day wells hoping that someone thirsty would come along. They would likely re-image Jeremiah 29:11 to understand God saying, “I know the adventures that I have planned for you . . .”
As uplifting as “chicken soup for the soul,” but a much stronger brew, the ponderings and exhortations found in these twenty chapters are the kind of thing I wish I’d had in my tool belt when I was seventeen, but I am happy to receive them now, on my fifty-third trip around the sun.
I received this book from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my honest review.
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