Soul Keeping

The sub-title of this book – ‘Caring for the most important part of you’ – demonstrates the importance which Ortberg places on giving attention to the care of our souls.ortberg

Ortberg uses the parable of the sower to illustrate this. The seed is a picture of God’s desire and action to redeem our souls; the sower is a picture of God who generously scatters the seed everywhere; the soil is a picture of our souls.

Ortberg talks about the different kinds of soil. I don’t know about you, but I can identify with all three of them.

  1. The Hardened Soul: some seed feel on the hard path. These people may have been hurt or disappointed so they form a protective shell. ‘The world diverts my soul-attention when it encourages me to think of myself more as a victim than as a human…..underneath the hardness is often fear…it takes a little, just a tiny little bit of softness in the soil to give the seed a chance…the hardened soul is more vulnerable to being saved than it knows.’
  2. The Shallow Soul: some seed fell where there was only a thin layer of topsoil with solid rock underneath. ‘The world conspires against our souls, keeping our lives superficial…For much of our lives, we live in the shallows. Then something happens… and we get this glimpse of tremendous depth….It takes a little, such a tiny little depth in the soil to give the seed a chance. The shallow soul is closer to being saved than it knows.’
  3. The Cluttered Soul: some seed fell among thorns, which choked the plants. ‘Our world will divert your soul’s attention because it is a cluttered world…We mistake our clutter for life. If we cease to be busy, do we matter?….It takes a little, such a tiny little uncluttered space to give the seed some room to grow. The cluttered soul is closer to being saved than it knows.’

‘A soul can be saved. But it will take softness and depth and space.

The world won’t help much.’


Savouring the simple pleasures

No alarm clock screeching at an ungodly hour; no deadlines to meet; no juggling too many balls in the air with the constant fear that one is going to drop. It’s a bank holiday weekend in the UK and I’ve been enjoying the chance to enjoy a slower pace.

The day our eldest daughter got married, I made a determined effort to enjoy each moment of that very special day because several of my friends had told me that the day would just fly by. I am trying to adopt the same attitude in everyday life, for I have realised that the efficiency of multi-tasking robs me of the enjoyment of simple pleasures. So, for example, while it’s good time management to read my bible while I eat my breakfast, I may as well be eating cardboard and drinking water. I don’t consciously enjoy what I’m eating.

The pressures of everyday life mean that we often have to multitask. But over this bank holiday weekend, we have had the chance to slow down. While enjoying brunch with the ‘newly-weds’, I looked across the table and savoured the moment – this precious moment when we can catch up on our frenetic lives and share some of the things that are most important to us.

tropical brunch

Saturday evening found us with other family members. While the guys watched sports on TV, we girls discussed plans for the next two family weddings (yes, we are pretty well stereo-typed!) and then we all came together to enjoy an Indian take-away. From almost 60 (!) to not-yet-15, we enjoyed each other’s company and, as they say in N.Ireland, ‘the craic was good’.

TV sports

Today we will have the joy of having Alan’s dad over to share lunch with us. Rhubarb is a favourite of ours at this time of the year, so we have prepared some rhubarb crumble to enjoy together. I just followed the recipe for Cranberry and Apple crisp but replaced the fruit with rhubarb. Simple pleasures.


There has been the opportunity to get out into the garden, too – to fight with some overgrown honeysuckle bushes and to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the beauty of creation.

garden carnationsAnd time for reading. Aaaaah! The joy of wakening before my husband and having the time to lie in bed with a good book. I’ve been enjoying this one which my sister gave me for my birthday – ‘Bread & Wine’, a love letter to life around the table, by Shauna Niequist. It’s ‘a poetic reminder to appreciate the rituals, people, and sensory experiences of our everyday life’ (Kelle Hampton). The author interweaves reflections of everyday life with her honest take on her own experiences, good and bad, joys and sorrows, and through it all includes recipes which have meant different things to her at different points of her story. A book which is perfect for the bedside table because each short chapter stands on its own. The author hopes that after you have read it, you will ‘bring it to the kitchen with you, turning corners of pages, breaking the spine, spilling red wine on it and splashing vinegar across the pages, that it will become battered and stained as you cook and chop and play, music loud and kitchen messy’. I have the feeling that that is indeed what will happen.

Bread & Wine

Here is a poem which is quoted in the book:

You say grace before meals.

All right.

But I say grace before the concert and the opera,

And grace before the play and pantomime,

And grace before I open a book,

And grace before sketching, painting,

Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing

And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

G.K. Chesterton, ‘A Grace’.

‘Learned desperation is the heart of a praying life.’

Recently I have been re-reading Paul Miller’s book ‘A Praying Life’.Praying Life

I have been struck by two things: how good it is and how little I remember from the first time round.

This morning I was reading about Miller’s concept of an infinite-personal God. His hypothesis is that ‘our modern world is okay with an infinite God, as long as he doesn’t get too personal’. Quoting from various places in Scripture, he demonstrates how the God of the Bible is both infinite and personal – for example in Psalm 23:1 the words ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ speak of his majesty (he is the LORD) but at the same time his intimacy with us (he is my Shepherd). But, like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, we are afraid of God getting too close. We shy away from that kind of intimacy. ‘We desperately want intimacy, but when it comes, we pull back, fearful of a God who is too personal, too pure.’

I don’t remember reading that first time round. That’s why I think perhaps one of my New Year resolutions needs to be the regular re-reading of this book…once a year? Perhaps once a month would be better.

‘A praying life opens itself to an infinite, searching God…..We can’t do that without releasing control, without constantly surrendering our will to God….Learned desperation is the heart of a praying life.’

I want to have a praying life – but do I want to make myself that vulnerable – to be desperate for God?