Book Look: Ordering Your Private World (Revised & Updated)

adult with kids reading book

When Saul became King of Israel, he enjoyed too much immediate success. It apparently made him unaware that he had any limits to his life. He spent little time pondering his need for others, engendering a relationship with God, or even facing his responsibilities toward the people over whom he ruled. The signs of a driven man began to appear.”

To the extent that we see him in ourselves, we have work to do in our private worlds. For an inner life fraught with unresolved drives will not be able to hear clearly the voice of Christ when He calls. The noise and pain of stress will be too great.”

In Ordering Your Private World, Gordon McDonald explores topics such as:

  • Stewardship vs. ownership
  • Identity
  • Knowing one’s purpose
  • When to “let go”

By contrasting the lives of John the Baptist–“he must increase and I must decrease”–and King Saul,  he shows us the difference between living called and driven.

This is not an ethereal treatment of pious practices. A successful leader, McDonald freshens up time management tips using words like budgeting and recapturing, and discusses how disappointments of the past drive the actions of the present–unless we learn to pay attention. Nor is it a dry treatise. There are plenty of biblical examples, literary allusions and personal anecdotes to hold the reader’s attention.

He advocates for an integrated, whole life approach and holds valuable work and intellectual rigor in high regard, writing about them in chapters titled “The Better Man Lost” and “The Sadness of a Book Never Read.” Having established the importance of paying attention to the inner world, the last portion of the book invites the reader into five spiritual exercises that bring order to the inner world, a private world McDonald calls “The Garden.” These are silence and solitude, singing, regularly listening to God, the experience of reflection and meditation, and prayer as worship and intercession–and in his clear, straightforward voice. It includes a study guide.

I didn’t make my way through this gem when it made its way onto my bookshelf many years ago—maybe it was the original cover… The first version released in 1984. But you can be smarter than me–read this new edition now! The author has given us wisdom as timeless as kings and queens and as current as today’s CEO’s and entrepreneurs. Illustrations have been updated but the core message remains the same: “He who orders his inner spiritual world, will make a place for God to visit and speak. And when that voice is heard, it will be unlike anything else ever spoken.”



*Disclosure: Product received from Handlebar for my honest review.

Hello Friday: Summer’s End

I’ve been living with Psalm 103:6 this week:

“The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.”

In the midst of the world’s chaos, I must remind myself often that the seemingly encapsulated moment I’m in is not the end of any story; that we are each being invited to join in working for all the oppressed, whatever our hands are given to do. For some it is the writing of powerful words that positively influence a culture’s thinking, and over time, behavior. May it be so.

It took me over a decade to get to it, a year to finally finish it. I’m quite sure Marilynne would not be disappointed–after all, she appreciates slow, careful thought. Once through and I am a devoted fan. She has written much more that’s worthy of your time and mine, but Gilead is the most famous of the trilogy telling the stories of those we come to love through the eyes of Jack Boughton, and “who were not finished with me!” (she says) at the end of the first of the three.

Here is a sampling of why I love what and how she writes:

“It seems to me people tend to forget that we are to love our enemies, not to satisfy some standard of righteousness but because God their Father loves them.”
― Marilynne RobinsonGilead

“There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, everyone of them sufficient”
― Marilynne Robinson

“I’ve developed a great reputation for wisdom by ordering more books than I ever had time to read, and reading more books, by far, than I learned anything useful from, except, of course, that some very tedious gentlemen have written books.”
― Marilynne RobinsonGilead

Her understated manner, available for viewing on YouTube and with which I am now well acquainted, is equally engaging. I spent several dark hours this week following her story from Sandpoint, ID to Massachusetts to Iowa City, and a few points in between. I learned about the coveted Iowa Writer’s Workshop, a program in which she taught for 20 years which took me to other renowned writers and more books to read. (Tip: When you have a migraine, set your app preference to Autoplay and let ‘er roll.) The net effect was a return to a bit of fiction writing I had once dabbled in. Who knows…?)

Speaking of books, videos, etc. this podcast featuring Brene Brown and Jen Hatmaker is a delight–and a lot of Texas in one place! I’m not an early adopter–I was into Brene long before fame, and have shied away from jumping on the Jen-wagon. But seriously–even if it is hard to say “seriously” and “Jen” in the same sentence–it’s a great listen. And I have become a fan. If you get a chance, pick up Jen’s For the Love. Available to check out on Kindle if your book budget is a little thin by Summers’ end.

Boo with pear

The pears were picked in the orchard next door this week, also a signal that Summer is ending. So is “Back to School” which is all the buzz around here with lots of grands–from first grade through university. One cent composition books…multi-colored Sharpies…five dollar flash drives? Who can resist?!? Now that’s life-giving! 🙂

Finally, Fall planning is in full swing:

  • New pages for the ARC disc planner
  • September Formation start-up
  • October’s annual board meeting
  • A visit to a friend’s new home
  • Last push on the home renovation…maybe by Christmas!

Hello Friday: Summer’s Endings, New Beginnings

Hello Friday is a look over my shoulder at the events of the past week. I notice what was life-giving and then share it with you, a week-ending examen. Maybe you’ll find something in it that brings you life, too; maybe even try your own.

  • “The Beast” is progressing! I’ve been walking Lewis most mornings. He is more mystery than manners at this point, but he raised the bar for himself this week by demonstrating his ability to wait quietly while I unleashed him upon our return so he could rejoin Boo in their kennel (which we moved to the nut grove when the temperatures soared to sustained triple digits). Otherwise, his norm is to spasm a little too enthusiastically at the door. It’s good to be winning the courtesy contest, if even a teeny bit. (And speaking of courtesy, photo by Mr. S)

Woman standing next to large white dog, holding leash

  • The classic definition of stress is being presented with a challenge one feels they haven’t the resources to meet. My pastor preached on it a few messages ago in a sermon titled, When God Asks Too Much. I listened to it again this week. If you feel like God is stressing you out by asking more than you feel you have the resources to meet, this one’s for you. Stick in your ear buds and take your beast for a 25 minute walk or push back the recliner and rest (audio is messy for first 30 secs; fine after that).
  • I spent a few delicious hours in a mountain retreat with a friend. Our lives are busy these days; in many ways, not our own. But we found a date when the white space on our calendars synced, and squeezed in a few hours to meet and catch up–reminisce, share current status, look forward, laugh, lament, and listen–deeply. Feeling oh-so-grateful.

Green chair by window

And I came away with a new resource to recommend: Seeking God’s Face.

I’ve talked before about my favorite Blue Book, A Guide to Prayer For Ministers and Other Servants. This one may bump it to second. Another prayer-book, but with some brilliant features:

  1. 15 years of actual dates in a little box at the top of each page. I don’t have to know where I am in the Christian year as long as I can remember (or find…) today’s date! It does ALL the thinking. You’re welcome.
  2. No second book needed, includes all scripture text.
  3. Prayers are in accessible, meaningful language that facilitates integration of spiritual thought with current, lived experience.
  4. Eugene Peterson’s thoughtful Forward.
  5. Format that engages both heart and mind.

Yes. It’s that good.

  • Though I am ambivalent about this one, there is life here. My tongue-in-cheek critique of Beth Moore’s book, Get Out of That Pit, had more to say about the condition of my own soul than it did about her authorship. I ended up recommending the book, but also telling the truth about what were, for me, its less-than-glowing aspects. Unflattering truths are hard for me to speak, but it felt good to do so honestly…if I’m honest. My spiritual director suggests God may be inviting me to move beyond my fear of approval by “growing a pair”–which you may or may not approve of my saying. Sorry…I’m practicing.
  • I transported a couple of family teens and their seven over-stuffed bags, water bottles in hand, to catch their ride to the hospital 2 1/2  hours away where a family member is recovering from a heart transplant.flowered design water bottle

 It felt like summer camp drop-off day with my own then-teen girls. I’ve been going through old pictures this week, trying to “minimize” (which is apparently more fashionable to be doing than old-fashioned “down-sizing” was, or “throwing away junk” was for generations prior). Anyway, I’m doing IT and found THIS. The one on the far right is celebrating a 16th wedding anniversary today! Mamas, don’t blink.

Mom and 3 children sitting on brown couch

  • I ran into a music buddy at the home improvement store on the weekend. “Keeping up your chops, aren’t you?” he said. I had to confess I wasn’t, but it reminded me that for a week or two I had felt an impulse toward playing once again, which has been absent for a time. On Monday, I found myself singing: (I know…ancient…)

You are the rock of my salvation.
You are the strength of my life.
You are my hope and my inspiration.
Lord unto You will I cry.
I believe in you, believe in you.
For your faithful love to me.
You have been my help
in time of need.
Lord unto You will I cleave. (Maranatha! Music)

  • This is a good place to mention that the week ended with this coming across from Gretchen Rubin about new beginnings. She’s good for me.

Podcast 129: September Is the Other January, the Fun of Post-It Notes, and What “They” Think.

  • And last, the week ended on a high note having lunch with a treasured friend, nurturing a valuable relationship.

Plate with slice of lemon, takeout box and restaurant check folder lying on table.

  • I’ve been thinking a lot about obedience as cooperation. I love and live  better when I remember that “trust and obey” just means I’m cooperating with Some-thing/-one good beyond myself. And it’s easier to trust when you believe that Someone has your best in mind. Thus, these words have been chock full of meaning this week:

The Lord is trustworthy in all his promises and faithful in all he does. Psalm 145:13b.

What are you letting go of as summer comes to a close? And what promise might those endings hold?

Blessings, G

Book Look: Get Out Of That Pit

adult with kids reading book

Confession: The postman left a manila folder containing a book I forgot I had requested for reasons I couldn’t remember by an author I didn’t care to follow. I’m probably just jealous, for who can resist Beth Moore’s effervescent presentation of hope? Apparently, there are only a few of us–but cut me some slack…? Remember Proverbs 27:14? “If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.” Such has been been my response to Moore’s prolific output. And like a good neighbor, I have carefully avoided her work—not an easy feat in modern day Christendom. Too bad for me, since I discovered upon opening the package that she has some really good things to say. When I read the enclosure, I was reminded I had, um, agreed to post a review. So here it is.

Get Out of That Pit has a timely message for anyone who finds themselves feeling stuck, unable to stand and having lost vision. From my curmudgeonly introduction, you have surmised that might be me! Moore delights with sunny, southern colloquialisms–if one has an affinity for that form of humor, then sucker punches with unavoidable truisms. As a result of her transparent sharing rather than the plastic perfection of which I [might] have accused her, I found myself open to her message, taken predominantly from Psalm 40, and the account of Joseph.

For me the most valuable takeaway is this: A pit is not, by definition, an external circumstance or a location outside of one’s self, but is, in fact, mobile. One can carry their pit with them into any situation, which she illustrates with a comic sketch of driving/crashing a stinking RV into a well-appointed living room to set up household. She posits at the beginning that it is this internal pit from which our true deliverance must come. As a spiritual director, I was thrilled to discover this nugget within. However, her attention quickly turned, in subsequent chapters, to the external “pits,” i.e. less desirable choices and willful disobedience. My initial thrill, thus, was tempered slightly as I would have liked to have seen even more of the book devoted to this inner dimension. It seemed the freshest.

As to literary quality, the stories are charming, however the writing can be redundant and unfocused at times making it hard to stay engaged. Thankfully, the study guide, included, brings clarity where it seems lacking within the specific chapters. To her credit, she states up front that her style is conversational and can be problematic for some (…like me, maybe?).

Women, in particular, looking for devotional material full of familiar biblical passages that “fill you up”–a significant portion of the scripture-consuming population, will no doubt find it enjoyable and helpful. Those who appreciate a more serious use of language, whose invitation is to deeper layers of reflection and self-awareness, who want to explore meaning beyond metaphor, should be aware that Get Out… will likely not serve that purpose, though it will serve its purpose in redirecting us to an awareness that we have agency in how long we stay. And it offers some actions to take to help us Get Out of That Pit! Spoiler alert: They mostly concern the mouth.

While I resist formulas, I recognize the value in organized thought. So, if you or someone you know seems to recycle through insurmountable situations—feel stuck, can’t stand in the face of difficulty, and have lost vision, Moore offers encouragement and insight. You may want to skim, though, rather than read each word. Congrats on the 10th anniversary of a successful piece of work.