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Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You Hardcover – April 22, 2014
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About the Author
John Ortberg is the senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (MPPC) in the San Francisco Bay Area. His bestselling books include Soul Keeping, Who Is This Man?, and If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get out of the Boat. John teaches around the world at conferences and churches, writes articles for Christianity Today and Leadership Journal, and is on the board of the Dallas Willard Center and Fuller Seminary. He has preached sermons on Abraham Lincoln, The LEGO Movie, and The Gospel According to Les Miserables. John and his wife Nancy enjoy spending time with their three adult children, dog Baxter, and surfing the Pacific. You can follow John on twitter @johnortberg or check out the latest news/blogs on his website at www.johnortberg.com.
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I’ll be perfectly honest with you: my first thought when I finished John Ortberg‘s upcoming book Soul Keeping was, “Oh, I wish I’d written this book.” The second was, “but only Ortberg could have done it.” With his signature easygoing style and wry self-deprecating humor, John Ortberg has explained why our souls matter, what they actually are, and how we can help keep them–and ourselves–healthy and whole. If you care about the quality of your living and the kind of person you are turning out to be, this book is for you.
But what makes Soul Keeping truly special is Ortberg’s compelling portrait of his friend and mentor, Christian philosopher Dallas Willard, and his extraordinarily practical interpretation of one of Willard’s most challenging concepts: the nature and operation of the human person. If you are new to Willard’s ideas, or didn’t get a chance to know him, or just want to remember the grace and brilliance of the man through Ortberg’s tender and grateful reminiscences, this book is for you.
Following Willard, Ortberg explains the nature of the soul as the part of a person that coordinates and integrates the others–the body, mind, and will. When the soul is healthy and whole, the other parts work together, creating an integrity of the inner and outer lives. When the soul is whole, everything else runs smoothly: one experiences peace in the midst of chaos, ease during challenges, and hope in living. When the soul is damaged, the body, mind, and will are at odds, working against each other. When our souls are damaged, our minds believe an action is good, but our bodies do another: we eat the ice cream knowing the kale is better. Or, we exert the willpower needed to be patient with our kids, but willpower gives out and we cuss out the poor driver who forgets to signal a turn. A healthy soul means integrated living at ease in a difficult world. A damaged soul means a life of conflict, haste, envy, disappointment or discouragement–in other words, what most of us experience too much of the time.
Ortberg then describes the needs of the soul. A soul needs a keeper–someone who is caring for it. A soul needs a center of groundedness and strength. A soul needs a future, and rest, and freedom. A soul needs blessing, and satisfaction, and gratitude. A soul needs to be with God, not in the next life, but in each moment of this one. If any of these needs is unfulfilled, the soul will grab hold of whatever fills the need for the time being, whether it’s good for the health of the soul in the long term or not. In this section, Ortberg explains the needs and how we might fill them in a manner that integrates and heals the soul.
Finally, Ortberg shares a picture of the restored soul, and of the life that enjoys the wholeness and integrity that a healthy soul provides, a life of balance and hope that most of us don’t dare imagine, much less strive for. This is the life of “an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.” It is also the inner life that John Ortberg, and many others, saw demonstrated in the outer life of Dallas Willard.
I wish I could have written Soul Keeping, for it speaks to a depth of understanding that comes from years of reflection, honesty, and practice. And as it speaks, it does so with the love that John Ortberg has for God, for people, and for Dallas Willard. May all our voices so resonate with love and understanding, and may our souls be restored.
(Elane O'Rourke is the author of A Dallas Willard Dictionary, and Social Media Wrangler for The Dallas Willard Center.)
Ortberg is a pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, though he also trained as a clinical psychologist. Each of those facts are important background in this book about caring for the soul. Additionally, Ortberg was profoundly influenced by the work of Dallas Willard who in May last year. In many regards, this book is a festschrift to Willard. Not only are Willard's influences deeply felt, Ortberg went out of his way to weave many stories about the man, a welcome addition.
Essentially, this short book is a study in how we care for the most important part of us our souls. At the outset, Ortberg seeks to define the soul so that the reader is able to proceed from a place of common understanding. Once he establishes what the soul is, he moves on to reviewing what the soul needs and eventually how the soul is restored.
There were a few things that I particularly appreciated about this book. First, Ortberg does a commendable job of differentiating between the soul and the self. So often in modern thinking about mental health, we think only about the self, which Ortberg suggests is misguided. Rather, we should focus on the soul, which defines who we are in relation to God. In the world of Christian psychology where I do some reading and writing, this is an important distinction.
Second, Ortberg effectively weaves in his understanding of the importance of spiritual disciplines. As one deeply influenced by Willard and involved in the Renovare conferences, he views disciplines as important. He discusses these in more depth in his book The Life You Always Wanted, though here they find an organic place.
Finally, I really liked the last two chapters. Essentially, these deal with his final interactions with Dallas Willard. He discusses suffering and what he thinks it looks like to die well, looking at Willard as a model.
On the whole, I would strongly recommend this book. I wish more "Christian psychology" and soul care would look like this book. It is deeply relational, hopeful, and grounded in the truth of the gospel.
I received this book free from the publisher through the Book Look Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
It is a simple book, yet deeply profound. How deep it is is dependent on what the reader chooses to do with it...
Most recent customer reviews
I like Ortberg's style.