Book Review: Soul Keeping by John Ortberg

You are your soul’s keeper.

This is the theme of John Ortberg’s book, Soul Keeping.  We are not the captains of our souls, we are only the keepers.  The soul belongs to God, and we need to look after it. It is a gift – a loan, even. Note the soul is not the same as what we consider ‘self’.  The soul encompasses all of us – body, mind, will.To have a healthy soul is to have an integrated soul where all these components work together.  Sin disintegrates us. The soul needs tending, caring for – not ignoring. It needs us to maintain a connection with God, but so often we starve our souls of this connection, neglecting them. We focus on the hurry, the busyness, the cares of the world and don’t want to face that deep, wounded part of us for which these are no balm.

My problem as a reader was not with the topic but the book’s own integrated-ness. In part, it is a reflection on soul keeping, and what the soul needs to lead a healthy and God-focused existence.  In a different way it is an homage to Ortberg’s mentor and friend, Dallas Willard, who is obviously a hero to him. This I found interesting, but would have prefered two books – one more anecdotal, describing his relationship with Willard and what he learned from and through him, and another book delving into the main topic.  As it is, I kept putting it down and forgetting to pick it up again, which meant I forgot what I’d read before. The flow wasn’t quite right. It is two books trying to be one, and not quite managing it. They are related, I admit, as much of Ortberg’s thought stems from Willard, but it doesn’t quite work for me. I get into one of the two threads, then it breaks off into the other and I have to change gear… Perhaps the editor in me is what’s causing the trouble!

This is a thoughtful book from which I gleaned much, but one I would need to read again to remember properly. There are many thoughts within its pages which deserve mulling over. Flashes of honesty, vulnerability and humour from Ortberg I found helpful although, as I said, I would have rather have read about his relationship with Willard in a different format. I think it would have allowed the ‘soul’ of the writing to have more space to grow.

In the light of this, reading a chapter now and then is a good way to read this book, taking each part on its own merit, being challenged by and drawing encouragement from it.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

 I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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