Book Review: Ordering Your Private World

This summer I had a chance to read 34 books that included a variety of topics ranging from spiritual growth to leadership to educational innovation and even a couple of fiction books just for fun.  I can honestly say that the book that has impacted me the most was Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald.  This book addresses your relationship with the Lord, with your family, and in other areas including work and play.

I know that I can very easily get things out of balance and neglect my relationship with the Lord or with my family.  Gordon MacDonald did a great job with this book helping the reader see why you must stay on top of this battle all the time or risk losing ground very quickly.

I believe that I will reread this book each summer in an effort to reevaluate where I stand on the “boulders” in my life.  I have posted some notes below that I highlighted as I read this book.  I would encourage you to pick up a copy for yourself and also one for someone you love.

  • Now, there is a busyness that reflects a plan of activity, a pattern of priorities, and a sense of purposefulness. It is a good and satisfying busyness through which one grows and increases competence.
    But there is also a busyness (a destructive busyness, actually) that reflects a chaotic way of life-a way of doing in which one is simply responding to the next thing in the day. The next thing! It makes no difference whether or not it has significance; it’s just the next thing, and one does it because it’s there to do.
  • The order of my private world is an inside-out matter, not an outside-in matter. We are all too tempted to buy gadgets (organizer programs for our computers, PalmPilots, cell phones, and BlackBerries, to name a few) with the hopes that they will bring tidiness of life. But it doesn’t work that way. Forget the gadgets and start with the interior, the private world.
  • The order we seek begins with a thorough scouring of the inside of life. With tough questions that it may take others to help us answer. With a confronting of beliefs and principles that are toxic and destructive. With a listening to the voice of God who has better things for us.
  • I believe that one of the great battlegrounds of our age is the private world of the individual. There is a contest that must be fought particularly by those who call themselves practicing or observant Christians. Among them are those who work hard, shouldering massive responsibilities at home, at work, and at church. They are good people, but they are very, very tired! And thus they too often live on the verge of a sinkhole-like collapse. Why? Because although their worthwhile actions are very unlike those of Wilde, like him they become too public-world-oriented, ignoring the private side until it is almost too late.
  • Wayne Muller writes:The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others. To be unavailable to our friends and family, to be unable to find time for the sunset (or even to know that the sun has set at all), to whiz through our obligations without time for a single mindful breath, this has become the model of a successful life.’
  • Fred Mitchell, a leader in world missions, used to keep a motto on his desk that read, “Beware of the Barrenness of a Busy Life.” He too understood the potential collapse that follows when the inner world is ignored.
  • One writer of Proverbs put the principle of the inner world in these words: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23).
  • In the New Testament, Paul made the same sort of observation when he challenged Christians to “not be conformed to this [outer] world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). He’s talking heart here. I’ve always preferred J. B. Phillip’s version of this verse: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.”
  • There must be a quiet place where all is in order, a place from which comes the energy that overcomes turbulence and is not intimidated by it.
  • How did we get to a day when stress and fatigue are almost a badge of success?
  • We have work to do in our private worlds. For an inner life fraught with unresolved drives will not be able to hear clearly the voice of Christ when He calls. The noise and pain of stress will be too great.
  • Unfortunately, our society abounds with Sauls, men and women caught in golden cages, driven to accumulate, to be recognized, or to achieve. Our churches, unfortunately, abound with these driven people as well. Many churches are fountains gone dry. Rather than being springs of life-giving energy that cause people to grow and to delight in God’s way, they become sources of stress. The driven man’s private world is disordered. His cage may be lavishly golden. But it’s a trap; inside there is nothing that lasts.
  • As the twelve disciples discovered, an audience with Jesus over a period of time exposes all the roots and expressions of drivenness.
  • To deal with drivenness, one must begin to ruthlessly appraise one’s own motives and values, just as Peter was forced to do in his periodic confrontations with Jesus. The person seeking relief from drivenness will find it wise to listen to mentors and critics who speak Christ’s words to us today.
  • It is this quality-the quality of an inner-directed person-for which we seek when we compare driven persons and called persons. Driven people often project a bravado of confidence as they forge ahead with their achievement-oriented life plan. But often, at the moment when it is least expected, adversities and obstructions conspire, and there can be personal collapse. Called people, on the other hand, possess strength from within, a quality of perseverance and power that are impervious to the blows from without.
  • Called People Understand Stewardship
  • St. Paul offered a valuable precedent when he wrote to Timothy and recited his call from Judaism to Christian faith and apostleship: “I was the worst of sinners, he wrote; I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man … the grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly” (1 Tim. 1:13-14). A man with a memory like that, regularly freshened, is not likely to think of himself more highly than he ought.
  • Called People Possess an Unwavering Sense of Purpose
  • Called People Practice Unswerving Commitment
  • Somewhere in my library is a book in which the story is told of an English headmaster who was appointed when he was forty-five years of age. His first act was to write himself a letter to be opened on his sixty-fifth birthday. In it he wrote (and I paraphrase), “Today you are sixty-five, and it is time to give the task of being headmaster over to a younger person. You will tell yourself that there is no one who can replace you; that the school cannot do without you. But don’t believe this self-aggrandizing propaganda.”
  • What makes you tick? Why are you doing all of that? What do you hope to gain as a result? And what would be your reaction if it were all taken away?
  • When I look into the Bible, I am deeply impressed with the practical lessons on organization that one can learn from the life and work of Jesus Christ. All four Gospel writers present to us a picture of Jesus under constant pressure, as He was pursued by friend and enemy alike. His every word was monitored, every action was analyzed, every gesture was commented upon. Essentially, Jesus had no private life to speak of.
  • The first thing that impresses me is that Jesus clearly understood His mission. He had an overarching task to perform, and He measured His use of time against that sense of mission.
  • A second insight into Jesus’ personal organization of time is that He understood His own limits.
  • Jesus knew His limits well. Strange as it may seem, He knew what we conveniently forget: that time must be properly budgeted for the gathering of inner strength and resolve in order to compensate for one’s weaknesses when spiritual warfare begins. Such private moments were a fixed item on Jesus’ time budget because He knew His limits. And it was very hard even for those closest to Him to fully appreciate this.
  • I think Jesus included a third important element in His strategy of time budgeting, for He set time aside for the training of the Twelve. With a world of millions to reach, Jesus budgeted the majority of His time to be with just a few simple men.
  • Law #1: Unmanaged Time Flows Toward My Weaknesses
  • Law #2: Unmanaged Time Comes Under the Influence of Dominant People in My World
  • Law #3: Unmanaged Time Surrenders to the Demands of All Emergencies
  • Charles Hummel writing years ago in a small and classic booklet said it best: We are governed by the tyranny of the urgent. Those of us with any sort of responsibility for leadership in vocation, in the home, or in our faith will find ourselves continually surrounded by events that cry out for immediate attention.
  • Law #4: Unmanaged Time Gets Invested in Things That Gain Public Acclamation
  • I Must Know My Rhythms of Maximum Effectiveness
  • A careful study of my work habits has revealed to me an important insight. There are various tasks I accomplish best at certain times and under certain conditions.
  • I Must Have Thoughtful Criteria for Choosing How to Use My Time
  • I Manage Time and Command It Best When I Budget It Far in Advance
  • People whose minds are not strengthened for endurance are by no means always unintelligent. They simply have never stopped to think that the use of the mind for the purpose of growth is a necessary part of a God-pleasing lifestyle. It is easy to fall into the trap of allowing the mind to grow flaccid, especially when there are many dominant people all around who would just as soon do our thinking for us.
  • The mind must be trained to think, to analyze, to innovate. People fully organized in their private worlds work at being thinkers. Their minds are alert and alive, taking on fresh amounts of information every day, regularly producing new discoveries and conclusions. They commit themselves to the daily exercise of the mind.
  • The person who does not know how to think will be relentlessly shaped and influenced by the dominant culture around him or her. But the transformed person (presumably transformed by the Spirit of Christ) will be busy thinking, reflecting, and making independent conclusions about the meaning of life and reality.
  • Thinking is the amazing capacity God has given the human being to discover and observe the stuff of creation, to compare and contrast each of its parts, and when possible, to use them properly so as to reflect the glory of the Creator. Thinkers see old things in new ways; they analyze hypotheses, separating out the true from the false. Thinkers sometimes describe old truths in new words and forms; they help others to see how applications to life can be made. Thinkers make bold decisions, help us see new visions, and overcome obstacles in previously unseen ways.
  • Proverbs 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, / But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.”
  • The Mind Must Be Disciplined to Think Christianly
  • The Mind Must Be Taught to Observe and Appreciate the Messages God Has Written in Creation
  • The Mind Must Be Trained to Pursue Information, Ideas, and Insights for the Purpose of Serving the People of the Public World
  • Our first step in spiritual discipline is finding solitude and silence; the second step is learning to listen to God. The third step, the pushing of the “enter” key, is done through reflection and meditation.
  • Worship and intercession are far more the business of aligning myself with God’s purposes than asking Him to align with mine.
  • Henri Nouwen said it best when he once wrote:Prayer is a radical conversion of all our mental processes because in prayer we move away from ourselves, our worries, preoccupation, and self-gratification-and direct all that we recognize as ours to God in the simple trust that through his love all will be made new.’

One comment to “Book Review: Ordering Your Private World”
  1. Picked up your link on FB and enjoyed the review/comments. I have been reading Lead Like Jesus and the concepts are very parallel. Thanks for all you do!

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