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Monday, January 27, 2014

"The Deeper Life" (Daniel Henderson)

TITLE: Deeper Life, The: Satisfying the 8 Vital Longings of Your Soul
AUTHOR: Daniel Henderson
PUBLISHER: Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2013, (272 pages).

All of our life is an expression of our theology. This one statement will trigger in us a deeper search for meaning and truth. What is our theology? What are we living for? What kind of a legacy are we living behind? What does it mean to make things count? These questions and more are covered in this very helpful guide for growing deep roots in the things that truly matter. Author, spiritual director, and Professor, Daniel Henderson puts together an excellent book on spiritual direction that argues against shallow living and for deeper growing. Beginning with a flashback to the Boston bombings, Daniel Henderson notes how during times of trial and pain, he falls back to his written answers to life's most difficult questions. Essentially, he retreats to the truth and promises of Scripture, the love of God, and the need to keep faith. For as the world blew up before one's faces, a deeper life in God will be a key source of refreshment, renewal, and restoration. Yet, the motivation to cultivate a deeper life has several barriers. Some examples include the many distractions of life that seem to keep us busy with temporal things without much permanent meaning. Others derail our focus toward the possessing of things rather than developing friendships and good relationships with people. Moreover, the rising number of options, the overwhelming choices that flood us, and the seemingly loss of connection with what is vital. How then do we live well? How do we choose wisely? It all begins with the recognition of eight vital longings within our souls. Cultivating this requires a constant lookout against the evil forces. Henderson puts forth a WIN paradigm: Worship + Integrity + Non-Conformity = WIN. Such longing comes in the forms of:

#1 - Knowing God Fully (Theology)
#2 - Knowing Self Truthfully (Identity)
#3 - Knowing Our Role on Earth (Purpose)
#4 - Knowing Our Values (Value)
#5 - Knowing Our Activity Order (Priorities)
#6 - Knowing Our Goals (Goals)
#7 - Knowing Stewardship (Time)
#8 - Knowing how to Finish (Legacy)

Each longing is first described with questions. The starting question is critical for it reminds us to get first things first. Our theology instructs everything else. Understanding the world requires seeing from God's perspective. It is like CS Lewis's words that say: "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." Getting our theology right from the start also means clearing our shelves the types that taint the holiness of God or hides the ugliness of the world. Once our foundational longing for God is established, Henderson guides us through the rest.

In our longing for self identity, we all need to ask: "Who am I?" Many people do from time to time experience moments of identity crisis. He guides us to recognize and to shun our "ineffective identity" that masks our true selves through things like achievements, status, or worldly measurements which reflect not us but inappropriate expectations. Instead, we are urged to develop an eternal identity, our experiential, and our external identity.

In our longing for understanding our existence on earth, we need to ask: "Why am I Here?" Answering this question is a process of trying to get a sense of the big picture out of the many different segments of our lives. The fourth question, "What Really Matters?" moves us toward developing values for life. For values matter in a world swimming comfortably in relativity, readily wearing cloaks of hypocrisy, and constantly threatening to prevent us from being authentic. The fifth question is "What Shall I Do?" is a question about vocation. It needs us to spend time thinking more instead of immersing ourselves into non-stop activities without thinking. The tyranny of the urgent can often distract us from honest searching. Henderson gives 6 helpful "guideposts" to sharpen our search: (Scripture, Stewardship, Servanthood, Significance, Satisfaction, and Stability). The sixth question "How Shall I Do It?" follows upon the previous longing by focusing on goals. There are good and bad goals. There are also good as well as bad approaches. Henderson too supplies a six-step goal setting process. The seventh question, "When Shall I Do It?" is about priorities and our use of time.The eighth question is "How Will I Finish?" which covers the legacy we leave behind. Henderson also helps us dig even deeper with additional exercises for each of the eight vital longings.

So What?

Reading this book gives me lots of food for thought. Let me just mention five of them. First, I am reminded that we need to build proper foundations first. It is upon this foundation that all of our activities are to be built upon. Otherwise, whatever we do or are doing, will collapse the moment our foundation collapses. God will never collapse. So build our life on the Word of God and with Christ as the cornerstone. Second, we need to beware of the things that can distract us from our focus. Many people in the world thinks that busy is good. They feel that as long one is doing something, they are living out a life of meaning. Unfortunately, such things can easily distract us from our focus. Worse, after tiring ourselves out trying to do things, we may end up lacking the time we need for reflection and contemplation. Third, we need to learn to ask for prayers wisely. If our prayers are simply about making ends meet, or about our mundane matters on earth, prayer simply becomes a vehicle for self-accomplishments. That is not what prayer is about. Fourth. we need to do regular spiritual maintenance. Henderson's guide to help us ask the eight vital questions of life is a helpful way to maintain or to reframe ourselves. Fifth, we need a plan. Henderson generously supplies us many steps and methods to go about doing that. If anyone of us lacks a plan, this book provides a starting kick.

This book indeed is a gem for discovering our calling and our purpose in life. It brings together many illustrations and personal questions. With each chapter ending with Henderson's personal application of his own idea, it becomes more genuine and comforting for readers to know that Henderson himself has personally tested these ideas.

I think Bethany House Publishers have hit on a winner.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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