All the Places to go (by John Ortberg)

It’s many years since I first picked up and very much appreciated one of John Ortberg’s books, some of which have lengthy but nonetheless memorable titles. Since then I have gradually acquired most of his writing; he’s an American Presbyterian pastor and teacher who writes well, with anecdotes and some self-deprecating humour as well as a great deal of Biblical understanding and common sense.

I’ve had ‘All the places to go’ (subtitled: 'How will you know?') on my wishlist for a while, and was very pleased to be given it for my recent birthday. The image on the front has almost Seuss-like feel to it, and that’s reflected in the book where the author mentions being inspired by one of Dr Seuss’s books. The theme pops up a few times in this book, giving a little light relief in silly rhymes.

Overall, it’s a book about opportunities. Rather than being written from any strict standpoint, Ortberg examines what the Bible says about ‘calling’ and ‘God’s will’, and mentions many misunderstandings and misquotes that are popular amongst Christian circles. Indeed, an entire chapter is devoted to exploding a few of the myths.

Earlier in the book he explains why some people are easily inclined to take risks and go through ‘doors’ - a metaphor for any new or different opportunity - and why some are much more likely to stick with the status quo. I’m rather firmly in the latter camp; my risk-taking traits are minimal, if existent. I very much appreciated this clear and thought-provoking book which encouraged me to think at least a little way beyond my comfortable and entirely non-threatening lifestyle.

Ortberg looks at issues of guidance, with suggestions, anecdotes and examples. Christians sometimes think there is only ever one narrow path for them to follow and that disaster will ensue if they don't find it. Some think there is only one person they can marry, and that if they don't find them, they'll remain single. Ortberg gently pushes these misconceptions aside, and shows how God is so much bigger.

What has stayed with me, most of all, is the concept that what God calls us to is not so much a particular role, or place, or even career (although sometimes he does) but to greater maturity. If we take a wrong step, or even go through a door that isn’t the best one, we can still grow and develop and follow Christ. Equally it’s possible to go through a door that is clearly the right one, perhaps specifically called by God, and yet fail to develop as a believer and end up disillusioned, or worse.

I love Ortberg’s writing style, and would recommend this book highly to Christian believers of whatever denomination or background. The author is not dogmatic, but asks questions, makes comments, and most of all shows God as a loving father who calls us into greater relationship, rather than one who expects us to search in the dark for the one-and-only path which we’re supposed to be following.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's Book Reviews

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