Review: Soul Keeping


What is this book about?

Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You is John Ortberg’s newest book, in which he shares everything he knows about the formation of the soul, in addition to letting the reader see a little bit of his own struggles with tending to the soul.

We live in a “soul-challenged world.” Maybe it’s because of pride and striving, perhaps busyness, maybe a hardness of heart, or even simple disinterest. Most of us spend our time caring for what we can see (work, family, appearance, status, etc.) and neglect the inside of us because our lack of tending is easier to disguise. Our connection to God slowly fades, and one day we wake up and realize we don’t feel connected to the Vine at all anymore, and sadly we don’t really remember how the fade happened.

Ortberg takes the reader on a journey to discover what the soul is, why it’s important, what it needs to be healthy, and how God restores it after a long fade.

Ortberg dedicates this book to Dallas Willard, who died in 2013 from cancer. Willard had a huge impact on Ortberg’s soul development, and you can see Willard’s fingerprints all throughout this book. For me this was such a treat — Willard’s writing has been formational to me, especially during college– so to see a personal side of Willard through Ortberg brought together who I am now and a bit of my college self/ambitions/expectations of myself in an encouraging way.

I think I’d like to step out on a limb and say that this may end up as Ortberg’s best book. It seems to be built on everything he has learned and written about thus far in a rich, Spirit-inspired way.

Why did I choose to review this?

I was hesitant to review this book. While I’m very interested in spiritual formation in general, I wondered if this book would be dry. Was there really that much to say about the soul? In a moment of perceived weakness, I said “yes” to the book, and I now see that it was probably the Spirit that prompted me to request it. 🙂 This book ministered to my own soul deeply, as well as to my brain (I learned a lot!).

My takeaway:

While reading it through the first time, the chapter entitled “The Soul Needs Blessing” was most challenging. In it, Ortberg suggests that at all times, our soul is either blessing or cursing someone. He tells of a session with Willard where he really grasped this truth.

I used to think cursing someone meant swearing at them, or putting a hex on them, so it was pretty easy to avoid because I do not swear much or do hexes. But as I listened to Dallas, I realized how wrong I had been. You can curse someone with an eyebrow. You can curse someone with a shrugged shoulder. I have seen a husband curse his wife by leaving just the tiniest delay before saying, ‘Of course I love you.’ The better you know someone, the more subtly and cruelly you can curse them.

The reason we are so sensitive, Dallas said, is that our souls were made to be blessed and cannot survive without the blessing.

I began to think about blessing and cursing as it relates to Jake, to my kids, to my other family and friends, and it encouraged me to be more careful in my words and actions.

Questions I’m now asking:

  • What is my soul most in danger of?
  • How am I blessing others? Cursing them?
  • What can I do to better attend to my soul? How can I help others do the same?

Where can you go to learn more?

 John Ortberg is a pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, CA as well as a prolific writer on all things spiritual formation. He’s married to Nancy, who also has written at least one book that I’ve read, and they have 3 kids. You can read his blog, follow him on Twitter or FB. He has written some truly great material- interesting, significant , and very accessible. Check out his Amazon page to read about some of his books.

If you read this book, be warned that you may decide to call in sick from work for a week while you read everything by Dallas Willard that you can get your hands on. I just discovered that there is a last book out, The Divine Conspiracy Continued: Fulfilling God’s Kingdom on Earth— Dallas had been working on it when he died. In January 2015, Eternal Living will be released, about which I’m intensely excited.

Thank you BookLook Bloggers, for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

One thought on “Review: Soul Keeping

  1. Beautiful. Sounds like an excellent read. Richard Rohr speaks about the same concept of blessing or cursing, but calls it life energy or death energy. Wanting to continually fill our souls with life energy from the source of life so that it pours out to everyone around us. Without being connected to the source, it won’t help too much to try to think about our behaviors.

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