Interview with John Ortberg

An interview that originally appeared in the Woman Alive book club, where I talk all things books with prominent Christian authors.

john_ortbergSoul Keeping was very moving to me to write, particularly because it gave me a chance to reflect on Dallas Willard during the final days of his life. I hope that through reading it, people will realize the wonder and mystery of what it means to have a soul and learn how to care for it well.

The book of Dallas Willard that impacted me most was The Spirit of the Disciplines, and I’d recommend that for folks to read. But my quick warning would always be that Dallas’ material is very dense. And, at least for me, I often have to read it through several times to be able to absorb it—kind of like osmosis.

There’s no particular story behind the long titles of my books [If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat or Everyone’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them] other than I have a mind that tends to think in thoughts that can only be expressed in long titles. And, there’s something that I like about combining the thoughtfulness and substance of deep thinkers like Dallas Willard with a spirit of fun, joy and delight that can make it accessible to people. So I try to aim for that.

Another Christian classic that is great for our soul in a hurried world is Richard Foster’s book, The Celebration of Discipline. If someone’s looking for a work that’s shorter and more easily applied, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence remains an absolute classic.

Nancy and I read together separately. We actually tried reading together back when we were dating and first married, but both of us are teachers and we would tend to start teaching each other, and that’s not great for a marriage. But we do love to read the same books and then talk about them on our own, and we do that for spiritual books from folks like Henri Nouwen to fiction and biography, and Nancy’s favorite adventure sagas.

I am always reading a book about Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln is one of my favorite characters. I like history and biography immensely. I also loved the most recent third volume about the life of Winston Churchill, which was begun by William Manchester before he died. I also read The Fault in our Stars, and even though I’m not a young teen, I thought it was quite well written.

John Ortberg is the senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California. He has written books on spiritual formation including The Life You’ve Always Wanted, Know Doubt, The Me I Want to Be and Who Is This Man?. He is married to Nancy, and they have three grown children.

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