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This is John Ortberg

Kris and I and our kids and their spouses have been fans of John Ortberg for a long time, and that is why I just had to find a way to read When the Game is Over it All Goes Back in the Box. I want to begin by quoting one of his many stories that says “this is John Ortberg” the tallest potato in a five-potato family.
John tells the story of his kids growing up and one-by-one leaving the home. First Laura and then Mallory and soon Johnny. After Mallory left, Nancy (John’s wife), went to the grocery store…


She picked up three potatoes in the produce section, and the thought hit her, We used to be a five-potato family. Then Laura went away to school, and we only needed four. Now Mallory has gone, and we’re down to three. Soon it will be Johnny’s turn, and then we will be back to the two potatoes who started the whole thing. Nancy, who is usually more of a thinker than a feeler, just stood there in the grocery store with three potatoes in her hand and cried.
Then she got a pack of chocolate Ho Hos and ate them and felt much better.

That is John Ortberg. It’s how he writes, how he tells stories, and somehow all of a sudden you realize again the point of the book (with some fun tossed in): When the game of life is over it all goes back in the box. (This line is from the first chapter, which begins with a marvelous tale about his grandmother and life’s great lesson that he learned from her when he beat her at monopoly — and she then taught him that when you win it still all goes back in the box.)
Some of you have read Ortberg. Which of his books is your favorite and why? What do you get out of him the most?
The theme of this book is that we need to be rich toward God, give ourselves to God, live for God, and live a life of loving God and loving others. John characteristically combines focus on a theme, wit, stories, biblical study, and all of this dipped into his capacity to draw upon social studies.
The image of a game runs through the book, but that image is only the lane we walk. Adventure after adventure allow us to leave the lane for insights and wisdom in a number of themes that lead us to focus on living our lives before God. We can’t beat the house; we all die; we will eventually face God. The mortality of life, to imitate something said by Samuel Johnson, tends to focus our attention. I won’t summarize or capture the theme of every chapter — there are twenty one of them — but being rich toward God is a wise way to structure our life.

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posted August 27, 2007 at 12:28 am

My favorite is “Love Beyond Reason”. Why? Because it’s a fantastic reminder of how much our Heavenly Father loves His children and the lengths He will go to show us this. I have chills just thinking about it!

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John Alan Turner

posted August 27, 2007 at 12:31 am

THE LIFE YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED is one of those books I come back to every so often. It’s like Dallas Willard for dummies.

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Nick Mackison

posted August 27, 2007 at 4:05 am

The Life You’ve Always Wanted is a brilliant book. Lots of practical wisdom. I loved it and plan to read it again (slowly!)

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Warren Rachele

posted August 27, 2007 at 4:44 am

Just one?! Why, the entire Ortbergian corpus is worthy of reading repeatedly. If I have to select just one it would be God is Closer Than You Think and If You Want to Walk on Water You Have to Get Out of the Boat. I keep the little chart from the back of Closer in the back of my Bible for the gentle nudge it provides in times of quiet communion. On the other hand, we can all identify with Peter’s fear and our flashes of distrust in the One who invites us over the transom and onto the waves.

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Jen Rose

posted August 27, 2007 at 5:58 am

My favorite is “Everybody’s Normal Until You Get to Know Them” – a book my husband and I took our small group leaders through for the young adult discipleship ministry we used to run. It was quite a cliquey bunch of young adults, and there were quite a few who were considered weird, didn’t have many friends, that sorta thing. I must say that Ortberg’s down to earth message of how to treat people really stuck in our leaders’ heads. The whole of the group came out of that semester a lot closer, with everyone feeling they belonged.

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posted August 27, 2007 at 7:16 am

i am never going to get through my book reading list if this keeps up. geesh!

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Clay Knick

posted August 27, 2007 at 7:25 am

“The Life You’ve Always Wanted” or
“Dallas For Dummies.” :)
I’ve listened to him a few time on
tape and have read his sermons on
the Internet and always enjoy them.

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carmen andres

posted August 27, 2007 at 8:15 am

[Delurking] Heh, I’ve often referred to ‘The Life You’ve Always Wanted’ (my fav of his) as Dallas Willard for Dummies, too. [Lurking again]

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posted August 27, 2007 at 9:21 am

Actually, John HIMSELF refers to it as Dallas for Dummies, but his editor refused to use it.

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posted August 27, 2007 at 9:33 am

Life You Always Wanted, because he puts the cookies on the bottom shelf…
that’s the thing about J.O. — I have full confidence that he’s done the hard reading, asked himself the hard questions, done all the hard work — and then makes it accessible to everyday people in their everyday lives.
Brilliant — the best kind of teacher!

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posted August 27, 2007 at 9:54 am

“The Life You’ve Always Wanted.” I read it for a second time in May when I spent a month in the mountains by myself. Dallas Willard is great, but when Dallas Willard is summarized by John Ortberg, it’s…well, also great.

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posted August 27, 2007 at 9:58 am

I read a quote from Anne Lamott recently that said “I’ve always loved books where people tell the truth” and that sums up what has continually impressed me about John Ortberg’s books. He doesn’t try to gloss over the difficult things or act as if he is perfect. Reading one of his books makes me want to do better without making me feel condemned because I haven’t done so well in the past.
[Now I’m back to lurking with Carmen and all the rest of your readers who don’t regularly comment.]

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Scott Eaton

posted August 27, 2007 at 10:01 am

The Life You Always Wanted is my favorite. It is one of the most practical, reasonable, and simple books I’ve ever read on spiritual disciplines.

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posted August 27, 2007 at 10:02 am

‘If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat’ is my favorite of his writings. I found it to be very challenging and convicting. I am always very catious when someone uses a couple of verses in the Bible to write an entire book, but this one was great.

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John Frye

posted August 27, 2007 at 11:04 am

*The Life You’ve Always Wanted* I led a small group of adults through a study of this one and they all enjoyed it for the same reasons I enjoy Ortberg–John’s honesty, tremendous teaching and humor. He is truly a gifted person. Now if he would just do LeRon Shults for Dummies we’d all benefit :)

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Ted Gossard

posted August 27, 2007 at 11:05 am

I’ll take Dallas Willard for dummies (#2) any day. Good to have both.
He’s a guy I really want to read (another one, of those I haven’t). Good to see the distribution of influence his writings are having in both evangelical as well as mainstream Protestant circles.

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Ted Gossard

posted August 27, 2007 at 11:08 am

Yes, John, that would work, too.

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Gordon Pruitt

posted August 27, 2007 at 11:20 am

I’ll take the life you’ve always wanted. i want to be john ortberg for dummies. I had a roommate that use to get ortberg’s sermons from willow creek and one of my highlights every week was listening to them, they were amazing. NOw i listen to them for free on MPPC’s podcast. I think week in week out he is the consistently the best preacher out there.

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Friend of Pascal

posted August 27, 2007 at 11:33 am

John Ortberg rocks! “The Life You’ve Always Wanted” is my favorite. I love Dallas for Dummies and am into Renovare in general. Ortberg has an amazing way of being well-researched, but at the same time he does not let his academic abilities get in the way of communicating to the masses.

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posted August 27, 2007 at 1:24 pm

My good friend calls John “Saint John” and I’ll not stop him. I had a couple of long car trips last week and listened to the first two years of the massive “Old Testiment Challenge” by JO. I loved every bit of it. When he got to the section on the law I recognized the foundations of the NPP as discussed here recently. I wouldn’t have noticed it without this blog and the education it is giving me. Thanks to everyone here and to Scot.

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Jim Martin

posted August 27, 2007 at 4:33 pm

I have enjoyed Ortberg for a number of years now. About a year ago, I saw a video series featuring Dallas Willard, Larry Crabb, and Ortberg in conversation with one another. He is not only a good writer and speaker but has a way of asking provocative questions as he did week after week in that video series.

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Fred Harrell

posted August 28, 2007 at 12:39 am

I used this illustration yesterday at City Church of San Francisco…now everybody in my congregation wants to buy “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”!
SOME YEARS AGO WE TRADED IN MY OLD VOLKSWAGEN Super Beetle for our first piece of new furniture: a mauve sofa. It was roughly the shade of Pepto-Bismol, but because it represented to us a substantial investment, we thought “mauve” sounded better.
?The man at the furniture store warned us not to get it when he found out we had small children. “You don’t want a mauve sofa,” he advised. “Get something the color of dirt.” But we had the nalve optimism of young parenthood. “We know how to handle our children,” we said. “Give us the mauve sofa.”
From that moment on, we all knew clearly the number one rule in the house. Don’t sit on the mauve sofa. Don’t touch the mauve sofa. Don’t play around the mauve sofa. Don’t eat on, breathe on, look at, or think about the mauve sofa. Remeluber the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden? “On every other chair in the house you may freely sit, but upon this sofa, the mauve sofa, you may not sit, for in the day you sit thereupon, you shall surely die.”
Then came The Fall.
One day there appeared on the mauve sofa a stain. A red stain. A red jelly stain.
So my wife, who had chosen the mauve sofa and adored it, lined up our three children in front of it: Laura, age four, and Mallory, two and a half, and Johnny, six months.
“Do you see that, children?” she asked. “That’s a stain. A red stain. A red jelly stain. The man at the sofa store says it is not coming out. Not forever. Do you know how long forever is, children? That’s how long we’re going to stand here until one of you tells me who put the stain on the mauve sofa.”
Mallory was the first to break. With trembling lips and tearfilled eyes she said, “Laura did it.” Laura passionately denied it. Then there was silence, for the longest time. No one said a word. I knew the children wouldn’t, for they had never seen their mother so upset. I knew they wouldn’t, because they knew that if they did, they would spend eternity in the time-out chair.
I knew they wouldn’t, because I was the one who put the red jelly stain on the mauve sofa, and I knew I wasn’t saying anything. I figured I would find a safe place to confess-such as in a book I was going to write, maybe.

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posted August 28, 2007 at 8:19 am

My intro to Ortberg came this summer when someone loaned me If You Want to Walk on Water . . . besides being the longest titled book I’ve ever read, it was one of the best, yet most convicting books I’ve read in a long time. Looking forward to reading more by him soon.

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Craig Whitney

posted August 29, 2007 at 5:12 pm

John spoke at Bayside in Sacramento last weekend – heard him tell the “3 potato story” and the “it all goes back in the box” story. It was great and yes now I have to buy another book.
BTW – best so far is The Life You’ve Always Wanted.

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