Monday, January 19, 2009

Book Review: “To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future” by Dan B. Allender. Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press, 2005, 227 p.

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

"To Be Told" is Dan Allender's plea to see God as the author of our life who writes each person's story to reveal his divine story. We are urged not to see our lives as random scenes but as the unfolding of God's narrative. As we begin to understand our life story we then join God as a coauthor. Finally as we share our stories with others and listen to theirs, we understand our role in God's greater story. Allendar presses these points home with personal reflections and real life narratives.

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

Allender is a solid writer with a flair for the extravagant ("and [God] roars in anger with us and calls us to take up his sword to wage war against that which broke our heart." p.172) and the mystical ("As hunger swirls and the early storm of fasting begins to brew, we have an opportunity to sit in and with our body." p.189). This makes "To Be Told" a compelling read. But at times the melodrama wears a bit thin and one wonders if we are not bordering on self-absorption. Allender is strongest in the early sections of "To Be Told" where the reader is encouraged to stop and think about how the stories of his life have shaped him and fitted him for the future God has for him. Yet I often thought of Chesterton's dictum, "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly". We are happiest when we are most self-forgetful.

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

I found Allender's emphasis on telling our stories to be compelling. We reveal who we truly are by the stories of our lives. I was challenged to draw the stories out of those around me so that our relationships would go deeper than just surface conversation. And I am looking forward to "listening to what moves me" more deeply. His distinction of the ideal self, the ought self, and the real self deserves fuller explanation. And his distinction of Theme and Mission was thought provoking. But that is one of the book's weaknesses. Allender challenges us to write and discover our stories, but I kept asking "How"? Some practical examples or samples of other's work would have been helpful here.

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p. 22 "The ending of my story is how I lived my life toward an aim, a finish that is worth both dying for and living for. If I live my life for me alone, then my story is as dull as my self-absorption, even if I have survived untold adventures. But if I live my life for Someone more important than myself and I have sacrificed, noble risked, been humbled, learned, grown, and given, then my life is heads toward a glorious ending."

1 comment:

Ryan Tindall said...

There should be a melding between Chesterton and Allender. Perhaps what we should concentrate on is not "my story" or "our story" but Christ's story. We only can properly understand our story when we first understand the one God is telling. And we're not coauthors, we're actors. It's not a study of what we've told, but rather what roll we've been given in God's glorious narrative.