Thursday, January 08, 2009

Thursday Review - The Life You've Always Wanted

It has been several years since I read Dallas Willard's book on Spiritual Disciplines. I recall that it had a tremendous emotional impact on me. It made me want to be a better Christian. It made me understand -- to some extent -- why the disciplines were an important part of becoming a better Christian. It was also dense, demanding and expected real commitment up front.

Recently, I read John Ortberg's book on spiritual disciplines, The Life you've Always Wanted. The Preface concludes with:
In particular, I want to express a debt of gratitude to Dallas Willard, whose thinking and writing about spiritual formation have had an enormous impact on my life and ministry, as it has on so many others. (In fact, one of my private working titles for this book was Dallas for Dummies.) While I wouldn't want to saddle him with any of its deficiencies, much of whatever merit this book has is due to him.
I think that Dallas for Dummies would have been a better title. Don't get me wrong. The book has much to recommend it. It is engaging, easy to read and charming in the way I have come to expect from John Ortberg; but when I put it down, I put it down.

This book is an excellent introduction to the idea of spiritual disciplines. There is nothing to be afraid of in this book. There is also nothing terribly challenging either. Now, I don't mean to imply that the Holy Spirit can't transform lives through any tool it chooses; but throwing this group into your local Womens' book study group will probably do little more than keep them entertained for a few weeks.

Now, to be fair, I thought the small group questions at the back were really very good.
Describe a time when you hurt someone through a sinful choice, humbly confessed, and saw God bring healing and restoration. How did this experience act as a catalyst for future obedience and willingness to confess when you recognized your sins?

What possible extremes might we face if we confess on our own without the leading of the Holy Spirit?
I also think that there are far more people who will read this book and be exposed to the concepts than will make it through anything written by Dallas Willard, and there is value in that.

On a more secular note, Quotidian Grace posted a review earlier this week of some historical fiction that looks quite interesting. I have run the author's name by a friend of mine who is a fantasy novelist and reasonably well credentialed medieval historian. She confirms Grace's opinion of this author's work. So, if you are looking for an addition to your non-professional reading pile and you like historical fiction, check out Quotidian Grace's review of Devil's Brood, by Sharon Kay Penman.

Until next week,

1 comment:

Quotidian Grace said...

Thanks for the link and for this review of Ortberg's book. Love the "Dallas for Dummies"description! How many of us would love to have a Dallas for Dummies on all his works!

It sounds like this book could be a good study for the right group, though. It's always so helpful when there are good discussion questions in the back of the book.