Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Mastering Life: A Book Review

I'm not typically a fan of self-help books.  I find them to a mix of pseudo-science, directionless faith, and condescension with a measure of unrealistic expectations thrown in.  When I read them, I feel worse instead better, downtrodden instead of inspired.  So, naturally, I avoid them.  Until I got tricked into reading one. I heard an author speaking on the radio about a new book he had written, and I heard just enough to get his name, the name of the book, and that he talked about Jesus some.  I gave it a chance, and I'm glad I did because Mastering Life Before It's Too Late, by Robert J. Morgan is unlike any self-help book I have ever read. 

Mr. Morgan builds his book around ten "patterns" for mastering life.  Each pattern has a whimsical name (Listen to a 12 Year Old, Pull Off at Rest stops) to describe a simple idea (being about God's business, taking time to recharge).  This is not "Ten lifestyle choices to make you feel great!"  No, the author's stated goal for following these patterns is to be "pleasantly productive" in the kingdom of God.  Our days are limited, he says, and the only way we can make a difference is by managing our own lives.  These patterns aren't random either.  They are all deeply Scriptural because the author believes the Bible is the best self-help book out there.  He's simply distilled the ten lessons from the pages of the Word and put them in an easy to read format.  

For many of the patterns, Mr. Morgan goes farther than saying that we should follow them because God wants us to. Instead, we should follow them because God himself does!  Take organization for instance (this is the third pattern, and he calls it Clear the Decks).  The first chapter about this pattern is called "God is not disorganized -- why are you?" Ouch. He backs up the claim with Scripture too.  Jesus did things in an orderly fashion when he was on earth.  Remember how he sat the crowd of 5000 into groups? (Yes, I know this had military implications, but you can't deny the Savior was being organized!)  Then he made sure all the extra bread and fish was put in baskets so it wouldn't go to waste.  The author points out that Jesus is simply carrying on a pattern of organization that is evident throughout the Bible, from creation, through the wilderness wanderings (remember how the people were organized by tribes and families?) to the organization of the church. 

Another pattern he mentions that Jesus followed was making good use of the morning.  In Mark 1:35, we see he began the day early in prayer and solitude.  Once again, he was following a Biblical pattern of placing importance on the early hours.  The Israelites gathered manna in the morning; the priests began the day with sacrifices. The Psalmists spoke many times about the importance of the morning (Psalm 5, Psalm 59, Psalm 90). 

Now, I am a not a night owl, but my kids have to get up at six to be able to make it to school on time. That means if I want to Maximize the Morning (as he calls it), I have to get up at 5.  Even morning people don't like 5 am.  The great thing about this book is that it made me want to try it.  Not like, "I guess I should set the alarm for five, grumble grumble." He made me want to do it by pointing out how Biblical it is and showing me the benefits of an early start. 

That was the most refreshing part of the book.  I'm not sure how he did it, but Mr. Morgan made me want to try all of these patterns, and he did it without making me feel guilty (well, perhaps a little at the organization part).  Instead, I felt inspired to try these ten patterns (you'll have to read the book to get them all) to try to manage my life better, not so that I would be more fulfilled, but so that I would be a better worker in the kingdom of God.
Melissa

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