Learning to Be

It was not so much the title of Fil Anderson's book, Running on Empty, that persuaded me to buy and read it, but the subtitle: "Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers."

I'm becoming more and more picky about books I buy, read, and keep, as my bookshelves are so full that I either have to buy (and find space for) new shelves or choose a book to get rid of to make room for any new ones. Well, Running on Empty is one for which I had to make room.

Anderson tells a compelling story of his own workaholism, stemming from a lifelong sense that his personal worth relied on what he did...and how well. After four chapters that chart his (and our) "Path of Destruction," he then charts a six-part "Path of Recovery." He prescribes solitude, prayer, Scripture, spiritual direction, joy, and sorrow for those of us who are, like him, bound to a lifestyle of "doing" rather than "being."

His experience resonated with me on many points, not the least of which was the life-changing discovery of unceasing prayer as a result of solitude. And his frequent citations of friends and fellow writers like Brennan Manning, Frederick Buechner, John Ortberg, Dan Allender, Thomas Merton, and more added much to the depth and impact of the book.

Some of the parts I underlined and plan to remember and revisit:
"The press of busyness is like a charm," said Soren Kierkegaard. "Its power swells...it reaches out seeking always to lay hold of ever younger victims so that childhood or youth are scarcely allowed the quiet and the retirement in which the Eternal may unfold a divine growth."

When did we stop calling it quits at the end of the day. And a better question: Why?

Author Frederick Buechner advises, "Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next."

I had become an out-of-control work addict, what author and educator Parker Palmer calls a "functional atheist."

A. W. Tozer was right. "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."

As Evelyn Underhill put it, I spent most of my time and energy conjugating three verbs: "to want, to have, and to do."

One of my most grave concerns is that the church has joined forces with the world in a conspiracy of noise, busyness, and hurry....Most churches are frighteningly busy places.
Running on Emptyis a worthy addition to my library, and should be a helpful challenge and inspiration to anyone who is spending most of their time and energy conjugating the verbs "to want, to have, and to do."

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