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  1. Inkblot Life Blog Review
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Living out our truest identity as Children of God
    January 25, 2020
    Inkblot Life Blog Review
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Since the last election I have been trying extra hard to listen closely to why we are so divided as a country and as a people. The most disturbing has been watching the great divide happen in the church at large. O'Brien calls us out and says our identity in Christ should supersede our politics. God's kingdom should help us unite no matter where we live or what our politics. I appreciated the challenge to rise up and be the body. O'Brien is able to do all this in a disarming way through his storytelling and vulnerability of sharing from his own life and own prejudices as he has wrestled with these issues.

    I highly recommend this book to those who are trying to hear and love better in the church and in the community. There is much food for thought presented in an enjoyable fashion, although in the end he brings it back to challenge the reader to truly find and live out their allegiance to God's kingdom overall so that they may shine the light of unity and love in this fractured culture.

    "If Christ's church in America wants to bear witness to the kingdom of God on earth, we have to figure out how to rally around our identity as His children and render all other identities secondary."

    I had the privilege of reviewing a copy of this book for Moody Publishers.
  2. Kendra
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Not From Around Here
    January 5, 2020
    Kendra
    Brandon O'Brien grew up in rural Arkansas/Louisiana, lived in the Chicago suburbs, and now resides in urban Manhattan. Using his experiences, he shows how the places we live shape who we are and inform our perspectives of right and wrong, good and bad. We live in a time of polarization fed by media and politicians, he says. We need to learn to listen, see from others' perspectives in order to bridge the differences between us, and reject the "one story" stereotypes (all rural people are rednecks, for example). When we look beyond the what appear to be opposing surface issues and challenges, we often find we're more the same than we are different. As Christians, we need to remember that our primary identity is in Christ, not "our geography, or our politics or our class or status (183)."

    We hear a lot about racism, and the themes of this book are similar, only on lines of rural vs. urban instead of colored vs. white. O'Brien's method is primarily storytelling. He covers a lot of ground and doesn't dig very deep, but his stories could raise good questions for thought and discussion if one took the time.

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Moody) in exchange for my review.
  3. Vanessa B
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Insightful, well written, witty at times, some good practical applications.
    October 14, 2019
    Vanessa B
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    An important topic and one that can easily be applied not just to contexts within American culture but globally as well. As a third culture kid, I perceive as important the authors encouragement to stay true to Christ and his values rather than submitting to the cultural pressures of place or space. This book helps highlight and identify damaging views or beliefs that are dictated by culture rather than by Christ, and has served as a source of enlightenment in some areas of thought for me. The importance of spending time in conversation with people of differing opinions is a challenge I agree is SO important, and often a lost art in today's culture where exchanges are less conversation and more confrontation.

    I found the phenomenon that the author mentions, of finding similar root causes beneath surficially different/unrelated pastoral problems, interesting. Definitely an eye opening form of encouragement to dig deeper into the stories of people with whom at first we may seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum with.

    A thought provoking read.
  4. James
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    For Christians who love their heritage, but don't want to idolize it
    October 9, 2019
    James
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    This book will be helpful for Christians who want their primary identity to be in Christ, neither divorced from or dependent on their regional heritage. As someone who moved from the east coast to the south to the mid-west and back to the south, there's a lot I have in common with Brandon. But there's a whole lot different in our stories as well. I didn't experience the rural life he did, and I haven't lived in a large city like he does now.

    Brandon largely tells of his own story of a Christian journeying through his faith and different regions of the U.S. He's aware of his story's limitations (pg 149) but also the potential growth that comes from sharing it . He has an appreciation and love for each place he's lived: small town, rural, suburban, small city, urban.

    I identified with the small town and suburban stories, but actually enjoyed the urban ones the most, because they were about places I haven't lived. I suspect that readers will benefit most from the stories about the area of the U.S. that they know the least.

    Besides his own stories, there are other sections like Chapter 7 "Learning to Tell the Whole Truth," which is a wonderfully brief critique of regional stereotypes connected to the work of Chimamanda Adichie. And the last few chapters provide some practical ways forward.

    It clocks in at 186 pages before the endnotes.

    I received a complimentary copy from the publisher.
  5. bookwomanjoan
    Oak Harbor, WA
    Age: Over 65
    Gender: Female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Teaching in a memoir context
    September 30, 2019
    bookwomanjoan
    Oak Harbor, WA
    Age: Over 65
    Gender: Female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    O'Brien wrote this book to help people who claim to find their identity in Christ relate to one another, even if they are radically divided in their political, moral, racial, or other viewpoints.

    He does this by telling his own story which is the majority of the book. He gives some facts and figures but concentrates on his own story hoping it will help readers understand rural and urban areas. He grew up in Bentonville, Arkansas (a dry county). He studied and worked in suburban Wheaton, Illinois (where Christians served beer and wine at every gathering). He is now in Manhatten. While I appreciate learning the best way to catch crawfish and the right way to board a Manhatten bus, I would have preferred stories from a variety of people, not just O'Brien.

    O'Brien ultimately has good suggestions, even if it does take him a while to get to them. We should learn from each other, having intentional conversations leading toward seeing life from another person's point of view, he says. We need to remember the sinful nature of man and recognize our own bent to perceive people the way we want to. As Christians we are to be quick to repent for our wrong perceptions.

    Dwelling in unity is a nice idea, O'Brien says, but is really hard work. (156) It is only through God's grace and our sacrifice, discomfort and humility it will happen. He suggests the spiritual practice of The Daily Examen as a good place to start and then prayer.

    This is a good book for readers who like teaching in the context of story, O'Brien's story. I would have liked a variety of stories rather than an emphasis on his own. I did appreciate his admonition to readers in the end. If the Christian church in America wants to bear witness to the kingdom of God, we have to figure out how to have our identity in Christ be the foundation for our lives. All other identities, whether political or geographical or ethnic, must be secondary.

    I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
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