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Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You Audible – Unabridged

4.7 out of 5 stars 537 customer reviews

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By Elane O'Rourke on April 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover
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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.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been familiar with John Ortberg's work through talks he has given at the American Association for Christian Counselors and his book The Life You Always Wanted, which surprisingly is not a book of prosperity theology. Because I have been favorably impressed with his work in the past, I was eager to read Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You (2014).

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Living in a time of increased secularization has numerous byproducts, and among them is neglect of the soul. The immaterial or spiritual dimension of the human person has become a mystery, and while soul-language endures, questions such as "How is it with your soul?" are often met with perplexity and mystification. Our thinking concerning the soul is quite limited, and for those suffering from deepest distress at our spiritual core, we lack wisdom concerning where to turn.

John Ortberg, in his latest book Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You ($5.99 on Kindle today), calls our attention to the soul, something he claims we acknowledge yet do not understand. We do live during a time when the soul is greatly neglected, even among Christian people. Therefore, when a pastor or leader steps forward and offers us wisdom, we should evaluate their words first, and then, where found to be true, put them in to practice.

I've read many John Ortberg books, and I think this is one of his best. It is personal and it is sophisticated. It is a readable work, one that I enjoyed. The book begins with a parable, with Ortberg telling us of a stream and its keeper. In the story there is a village, seated at the base of a mountain. High atop the trail, there is an elderly man who travels up and down the stream, keeping it free from debris or any substance that could pollute its waters. As long as the stream is well kept, the village prospers and enjoys the benefits. When the stream is neglected, all suffer. And Ortberg tells us the soul is like the stream, and we are like the keeper. We must do those things which lead to health, the first priority reconciliation and relationship with the one for whom our souls are made--God himself.
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