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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"The Daniel Plan" (Rick Warren)

TITLE: The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life
AUTHOR: Rick Warren
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013, (352 pages).

It all started when the famous pastor of Saddleback Church found himself huffing and puffing as he baptized 827 adult Church members. It then dawned upon him that he is more fat than fit. Despite his relatively healthy diet and upbringing, Rick Warren's lifestyle has led to a growing health problem. As he probes deeper into his own situation, he found out that he was not alone. America is struggling too. Thus, when he repented before his Church members, expecting only a few hundred to adopt his plan, he was surprised that more than 12000 signed up. That is nearly half of his entire Church congregation. Encouraged by the response, supported by three health professionals, he structured a "Daniel Plan" which is a 40 days journey toward a healthier life and lifestyle. Five components are adopted: Faith, Food, Fitness, Focus, and Friends.

On Faith, Warren draws on the promise of God that with faith in God, all things are possible. We cannot depend on human strength. The best plans of man are nothing compared to God's plan. He dwells on and on upon God's love, power, and how God works with us, through us, and in us. Our three spiritual habits are to be 1) Feed on God's Word regularly; 2) Depend on the Holy Spirit at every moment; 3) Choosing to trust God in every circumstances.

On Food, we learn that foods that heal include natural and real foods. Foods that harm are those that are "packaged, processed, and prepared" ones. He suggests a 50% vegetables, 25% protein diet, and 25% grains as a guideline. Drink lots of water and herbal beverages. He even gives top ten examples of each category to help our choices. There are also tips on how to shop and how to prepare food, making this section something like a spiritual cookbook!

On Fitness, Warren begins by reminding us keeping fit is not just an exercise routine. It is honouring the Holy Spirit in us. He calls a "Daniel Strong" as someone who is diligently engaged in "A pursuit of excellence in body, mind, and spirit for God’s glory." There are ideas for what and where to do our workouts. He helps us to dream and then to cultivate a word in which we can use to accomplish our fitness dream. He also encourages us to map out a fitness plan. There is an intentionality that I like.

On Focus, Warren is aware that many good plans and purposes begin well but falter quickly. He points out the importance of the renewal of the mind, to address our pleasure centers and to strengthen our brains toward activities that are "healthier and happier" instead of laziness and lethargy. Some of the challenges include poor sleeping habits, obesity, poor attention span, compulsiveness, depression, and many more. He even links the brain lethargy with stress levels. In fact, stress is a key contributor to poor eating habits. In order to help us focus, we are encouraged to pray more, delegate, relax with soothing music, use calming scents and supplement, humor, and thoughts of God's character.  I particularly like the many examples of positive and negative thought expressions that we can adopt or avoid. This is probably my favourite chapter.

On Friends, Warren brings us back to the community we live in. The moment we are believers in Christ, we do not pride ourselves as spiritual lone rangers but a team of disciples. The overall Daniel Plan is challenging enough to discourage or detour any one person from finishing the plan. With a community of believers accountable to one another, there will be a higher chance of success.

So What?
While I may have some reservations about slick presentations, five principle formats, or 40 days of any one project plan, I must admit that these have a place in our pragmatic and technique driven world. We need some form of a guide rail, especially in the area of personal health. The more ill-disciplined we are, the more we need them. Rather than blaming the micro methods or the principles in the book, I tend to look at the bigger picture of health and good physical well-being. The issue is our lifestyle and bad habits that need to be eradicated. While we may not agree with everything Warren has written, or question the efficacy of his methods, we ought to appreciate that this is one more voice speaking out in the wilderness of poor habits and lifestyles. The problem is obesity and the spiritual underpinnings that keep feeding such lazy and lethargic lifestyles.

At first, I thought this book is a direct application of the Daniel Cure, written by Susan Gregory and Richard Bloomer. It is difficult to tell whether Warren has written this book independently of George and Bloomer's book and idea, though the titles are quite similar. Both are lifestyle programs. Both are written with a biblical backing. Both are written to move for a shift in choices toward healthy ones. The key difference I can glean is that Warren's book covers four additional factors in greater depth compared to Gregory and Bloomers', which is tilted more toward the food aspect. Nevertheless, both can complement each other.

I am reminded that to spiritual health is also about spiritual wholeness. We cannot dichotomize ourselves into spiritual vs physical, lest we become Gnostics or dualists. We cannot just focus on the physical methods and ignore the biblical principles behind what we do, lest we adopt a slanted health regimen. We cannot simply read this book and then tell others we have read the book. For the purposes of this book, reading it is not enough. It must be put into practice. For the Daniel Plan is not about reading. It is about doing and ultimately offering our bodies as a living sacrifice, to be wholly acceptable to God, which is our reasonable act of worship.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


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

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