Saturday, April 26, 2014

'Ordering Your Private Life' by Gordon MacDonald

Ordering Your Private World
We have schedule planners, computerized calendars, and self-stick notes to help us organize our business and social lives everyday. But what about organizing the other side of our lives--the spiritual side?

One of the great battlegrounds of the new century is within the private world of the individual.The values of our Western culture incline us to believe that the busy, publicly active person in ministry is also the most spiritual.

Tempted to give imbalanced attention to the public world at the expense of the private, we become involved in more programs, more meetings. Our massive responsibilities at home, work, and church have resulted in a lot of good people on the verge of collapse.

In this timely update of his classic "Ordering Your Private World," Gordon MacDonald equips a new generation to live life from the inside out, cultivating the inner victory necessary for public effectiveness.

The premise of this book is that the pace of modern life is impossible to maintain without getting our spiritual tanks empty. So many people are running on the cheap fuels of talent, natural giftings, momentum and caffeine fixes instead of the depth and energy that comes from a purposeful decision to be slower, more honest and reflective. As we're all in this western lifestyle together, it's often impossible for us to perceive who is running on which type of fuel until cracks start appearing.

Gordon MacDonald has observed that many lives are sudden sinkholes waiting to happen, because the messages we get from the world encourage us to focus on the surface levels of our lives, including how they may look to others. There is a gaping chasm beneath this veneer which so often remains unfilled.

I loved his clear distinction between being 'driven' in your approach to life, as opposed to being 'called'. I get the impression driven people may tend to regard life with a 'what's in it for me' type of filter. They wear fatigue and stress as badges of honour. Gratified only by accomplishment and positive feedback, they read books and attend seminars with the sole aim of being even more productive. Although they may appear altruistic and heroic, in reality they are exhausted approval seekers, needing to constantly hear the words, "Well done". They are preoccupied with visible symbols of accomplishment, such as office sizes and social media followings. Their minds never stop ticking away, wondering how they can get better connected with other so-called "greats" in their field, all the while keeping their eyes open to see who is applauding them.

On the other hand, those who are 'called' have no need to grandstand or impress anyone, so they can take time to nurture their inner worlds. Knowing they aren't the centre of the universe, they take time to ponder the mysterious little things in the world. When they do give, they are free to do so out of a deep reservoir. And they don't bother keeping track of who's watching them, because they know that's not the issue of life.

The rest of the book consists of mindsets and practices we can try to set up to make sure we are 'called' rather than 'driven'. These include reading good books in a slow, thoughtful manner, letting their insights shape our lives. He also highly recommends keeping a journal of our inner processes and thoughts. I've been doing this for a long time anyway, but I loved his perspective that it's a type of prayer in its own right, making it easier for us to heed God's gentle insights and counsel.

We are given an example of two Biblical men, one driven and one called. King Saul wasted so much energy chasing David across the desert, convinced that getting rid of his perceived competition would prevent his shaky throne from toppling. MacDonald believes that if modern medical monitors had been available then, Saul's blood pressure and stress hormones would have been found to be sky high. However, John the Baptist lived a still life out in the desert, aware of the deeper undercurrents of life. When his followers suggested that Jesus' popularity might be threatening his own position, he was totally unconcerned, knowing it was as it should be.

Just the way this book is written forces us to slow down our racing thoughts and get calm and reflective. If you're like me, you might find that your mind is choppier than you would have thought. But reading this definitely helps make those ripples calmer.

5 stars

Ordering Your Private World available from Amazon

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