When Your Soul is Crazy-Cluttered…(With Help from John Ortberg)

“You’re not listening to me.”

“Yes, I am.”

“No,… you’re not. Your mind’s going in a million directions.”

“Is not.”

“Is too!”

Background concept wordcloud illustration of mental clutter

Such was a recent stand-off between Hubster and me. Guess who was saying what?

For the past two weeks, I’ve been sharing about our trip to South Carolina. Confession: the weeks prior to our departure were wild. (You may recall the flood in our kitchen the week of John Jr. and Diana’s wedding for starters…) To say our escape was much-needed is the understatement of the month.

As God would orchestrate, I was reading Soul Keeping—Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg. I was dumbstruck to discover I was in no way, shape, or form caring for my soul. DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!

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Clearly the Lord was trying to get my attention. I can only imagine His frustration at my little auto-pilot self. Gracious.

Praises be sung for the gift of John Ortberg’s book. His close relationship to Dallas Willard blesses us readers with Dallas’ insight too. He builds around this inspirational quote from Dallas:

“Our soul is like a stream of water, which gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of our life. When that stream is as it should be, we are constantly refreshed and exuberant in all we do, because our soul itself is then profusely rooted in the vastness of God and His kingdom, including nature; and all else within us is enlivened and directed by that stream. Therefore we are in harmony with God, reality, and the rest of human nature and nature at large.”

Young Children Exploring Nature On Wooded Path

Let’s look at the benefits a healthy soul has:

Strength,

Direction,

Harmony,

Constantly refreshed,

Exuberant (Anybody felt exuberant lately?) and

In harmony with God

Note this happens when we’re profusely rooted in the vastness of God and His Kingdom.

Here’s where we’d best plant our faces in God’s Word every day. Savoring scripture prevents our souls from crazy clutter.

But… (You knew that was coming!), if we allow ourselves to spin multiple plates, our soul will shrivel, becoming choked from clutter, blocking ways for God’s light, hope, and peace to shine thru’ us.

BEIJING, CHINA - JUNE 4: Balancing the spinning plates performed

Good news! John Ortberg serves up seventeen sensational chapters, each one dealing with different ways to nurture our souls, protecting them from our culture’s chaos.

Pictured below with our author, John Ortberg, are two of my very dear friends, Nancy Tinnell on the left and Kelly McDonald on the right.  In 2013, these gals attended the Leadership Institute at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS where John was a presenter.  Nancy is the Women’s Ministry Director and Associate Pastor of Discipleship & Spiritual Formation at Middletown United Methodist Church.   Kelly works at the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and is Engineer Extraordinaire of this blog.

nancy and kelly with ortberg

You can find out more about John on his website, www.johnortberg.com, or from the church where he’s the  pastor, at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church at www.menlo.church

This week we’ll address three temptations to watch for that can cripple our soul:

#1 – HURRY:

Dallas Willard once said,

“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.”

As a new Mom, one thing I vowed I’d never utter to our boys was, “Hurry up!” That lasted until our firstborn was being a slowpoke for preschool, at the ripe age of two. Sigh…

#2 – CLUTTER

This section stopped me cold. Look at the below:

“The CLUTTERED SOUL becomes choked by worries, deceitfulness of wealth, and desire for other things.

When you’re so busy, your soul will shrivel…

The busy soul gets attached to the wrong things, because the soul is sticky.

The VELCRO of the soul is what Jesus calls ‘desire’. It could be desire for money, or it could simply be desire for ‘other things’.

We mistake our clutter for life.”

Oh, friends, if that’s not enough, there are more slap-you-silly sections : The Hardened Soul and the Shallow Soul. Advice? Read ‘em cuz we all need ‘em.

Bottom line: We must quit buying into our culture which applauds busyness. Our culture equates success with production, eighty-plus-hour workweeks, running circles around ourselves, burning the midnight oil for those it-seemed-like-a-good-idea at the time to-do’s.

Scarier…, John adds, “A person preoccupied with externals–success, reputation, ceaseless activity, lifestyle, office gossip—may be dead internally AND NOT EVEN RECOGNIZE IT.” Any alarms going off?

#3 – DISHONESTY:

Another soul disintegrator is dishonesty. Thankfully John’s humor in this section comes as a blessed relief:

Dan Ariely, author of The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves, admits he’s “astounded by how widespread people’s tendency is to cheat, be self-centered, lie, and be deceitful.”

Honest Truth About Dishonesty

If you’re a grandmother of a college student, listen up:

Research shows “grandmothers are ten times more likely to die before a midterm and nineteen times more likely to die before a final exam.”

“Students who are failing are fifty times more likely to lose Grandma than nonfailing students…..the greatest predictor of mortality among senior citizens in our day ends up being their grandchildren’s GPAs.” (Please join me in laughing out loud. Are you following?)

young pretty female college student sitting in a classroom full

During Woody’s freshman year at the University of Kentucky, we experienced this scenario. First, he made the grave error of playing intramural football. Early into the season, he broke his collarbone. Badly. Required surgery in Louisville, and lots of time off from school. I prayed he’d pass his first semester.

Right on the heels of his return from surgery, my Mother died. That meant another trip to Louisville and two more absences. One of Woody’s professors found that hard to believe. I had to email her and tell her where to read the obituary in the Lexington Herald Leader.

Needless to say when I read about this research in Ariely’s book, I cracked up. However, cynicism had already slithered into my brain.

Case in point: Our recent bathroom remodeling project underwent multiple, bang-your-head-against-the-wall-delays. Last Monday our plumber couldn’t come because his grandmother died. Immediately I said to myself, “Oh sure, his grandmother died.” I know! Pitiful. Forgive me, Lord.

Good news: Our Good and Gracious God has knitted our souls to seek Him. When we’re sin sick, our souls still crave and need the right relationship with our Savior.  More grace.

Let’s return to God’s Word and claim what the psalmist says in Psalm 84:2

Psalm 84 2

Let’s hear from Isaiah in Isaiah 26:9 –

Isaiah 26 9

Webster tells us, “To yearn is to have an intense longing, or craving, or desire, or appetite, or hunger.” May we truly yearn for the Lord.

Bottom Line:

When facing a decision, ask yourself:

**“Will this situation block my soul’s connection to God?”**

I believe the Holy Spirit will give us the answer.

Cling to this:

Psalm 19 7

And hold fast to:

hebrews 6 19a

May we prioritize care for our soul.

‘Til next time!

P.S. Another excellent book on soul care is a new release by Lucinda Seacrest McDowell (Cindy) called Refresh! A Spa for Your Soul. Our Tuesday Bible study group recently studied thru’ it with “Spa” (Spiritual Personal Assessment) as our theme.

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The homework is the best: Cindy recommends all kinds of things to pamper yourself. It was just what the doctor ordered for our spring time study and could be perfect for you this summer or fall.

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2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

2 responses to “When Your Soul is Crazy-Cluttered…(With Help from John Ortberg)

  1. Hey Joyce!
    Great to hear from you! I will email you shortly. Had a very fun meeting with some writers in Lexington last week….stay tuned….
    Hugs from here!
    Love,
    Elizabeth

  2. Wow, Elizabeth, this one is packed with goodies. I’m going to have to reread the blog two or three times. Our church used one John Ortman’s books a couple of years ago in all the Sunday School classes. Much to ponder in this one. Thanks for the review.