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The Shape of Living: Spiritual Directions for Everyday Life Paperback – 27 Jan 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (27 Jan. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310245621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310245629
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,317,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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In an overwhelming world, how can our lives be shaped to their greatest potential? David F. Ford describes the "overwhelmings" we face in the whirl of life today - the endless images and information that inundate us and pervade our lives. Examining the people and forces that influence us, the rhythm of work and leisure, and the intense experiences, both good and bad, that make up reality, Ford serves up practical wisdom for coping creatively with challenge and change. Above all, Ford helps us discover a dynamic pattern that can respond to the "overwhelmings" and shape our desires, relationships, responsibilities, and celebrations. Here, is a vision of genuine Christian life that can face both the living God and the best and worst of today's world.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 21 Oct. 2004
Format: Paperback
Throughout the history of human existence, life has had the potential for being overwhelming. However, this potential has never been greater than in the modern Western society - despite all of our 'labour-saving' devices and a veritable explosion of courses, books, and strategies for coping and managing stress, there is more to overwhelm us than ever. We look back with nostalgia to 'simpler times' or look forward to an easier future, not realising that neither is true. Into the mix of the rough and tumble of everyday life, sometimes we are presented with an even greater overwhelming - God calls us to do something, to be something. Talk about the ultimate overwhelming!
David Ford, a noted theologian on the faculty at Cambridge University, has written a practical book aimed at those who look for a spiritual dimension in their busy lives, particularly for those who feel a call to some kind of spiritual or ministerial vocation, but also generally accessible to all who have a sense of being called and being overwhelmed at the same time. Ford, in his introduction, makes clear his general Christian orientation, but does a good job throughout of being general enough that adherents of any religious faith would find value in the text - it is not a dogmatic one by any means.
Ford begins from the standpoint of community and people - our lives might not seem so overwhelming if they were lived alone and in isolation (although some who have tried this tactic of 'getting away from it all' have had their own overwhelmings). These can be our families, friends and neighbours, as well as people in the past - those we carry with us in our interior being.
Ford addresses the call in our lives in the second chapter - what satisfies our deepest longings? What are we truly called to do in our lives?
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 Jun. 1999
Format: Paperback
"The Shape of Living" is a book about real life. In it, the reader will grapple with issues of personal identity, relationships, work, hope and fear, joy and sorrow. And they will be found as they are found in real life. David F.Ford writes of the experience of being "overwhelmed", showing this to be at the heart of human experience at the end of the twentieth century, but also showing it be central to human experience over the whole of recorded history. Because of this he is able to show how the wisdom of the great religious traditions is able to help us to find our own shape of living. They are found here, not just as interesting texts, but revealing the possibility of a vibrant relationship with God. A God who is a real companion on our own search for a shape to our lives in the midst of being overwhelmed by them.
Here, I must be honest and say that I know David Ford. He was a member of the parish of St Luke's in inner city Birmingham where I was curate between 1988 and 1992. But this also means that I know that David Ford is not just a clever wordsmith. This book comes from his heart and also from a real grappling with his own "shape of living" over many years. This is no ivory tower theologian, but one for whom God and human life are realities to be grappled with daily.
Perhaps one of the greatest joys of the book is the way he weaves the poetry of Michael O'Sidheal into the fabric of the book. He rightly shows that it is the poets who touch the essence of human experience.
This book has helped me in the shaping and reshaping of my own life. I believe it could become a spiritual classic, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who is on search for meaning in the midst of the overwhelmings of modern life.
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By Juliet M Heaton on 20 Feb. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
disappointing
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding Explication of Christian Spirituality 3 July 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As a practicing Christian and as a doctoral student in religous studies, I have read and perused a number of modern volumes on Christian Spirituality and I must say that this one is simply the best modern text on the subject. Ford's extensive theological and biblical background informs every word yet every word is accessible and plainly spoken. (Very much resembles C.S. Lewis in content and style). Anyone who is serious about their Christian journey should read and savour this volume. If you dare, it will change your life.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Adding form to chaos... 29 Aug. 2004
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Throughout the history of human existence, life has had the potential for being overwhelming. However, this potential has never been greater than in the modern Western society - despite all of our 'labour-saving' devices and a veritable explosion of courses, books, and strategies for coping and managing stress, there is more to overwhelm us than ever. We look back with nostalgia to 'simpler times' or look forward to an easier future, not realising that neither is true. Into the mix of the rough and tumble of everyday life, sometimes we are presented with an even greater overwhelming - God calls us to do something, to be something. Talk about the ultimate overwhelming!

David Ford, a noted theologian on the faculty at Cambridge University, has written a practical book aimed at those who look for a spiritual dimension in their busy lives, particularly for those who feel a call to some kind of spiritual or ministerial vocation, but also generally accessible to all who have a sense of being called and being overwhelmed at the same time. Ford, in his introduction, makes clear his general Christian orientation, but does a good job throughout of being general enough that adherents of any religious faith would find value in the text - it is not a dogmatic one by any means.

Ford begins from the standpoint of community and people - our lives might not seem so overwhelming if they were lived alone and in isolation (although some who have tried this tactic of 'getting away from it all' have had their own overwhelmings). These can be our families, friends and neighbours, as well as people in the past - those we carry with us in our interior being.

Ford addresses the call in our lives in the second chapter - what satisfies our deepest longings? What are we truly called to do in our lives? The process of discernment can be a formal process for some, and an informal process for others, but it is always there in some form if we open ourselves up to it. Ford looks at vocation in the broadest sense - our callings are not just to career and profession, but to life as a whole.

In subsequent chapters, Ford looks at overwhelmings that are good and bad, the idea of goodness generally, and various issues of how we spend our time, energy, and even information about ourselves. Can secrecy be part of this process of dealing with overwhelming? There are various disciplines discussed here.

Ford uses biblical stories as well as the poetry of Micheal O'Siadhail as primary texts, and weaves in his own experiences as well as those of others into the mix. For example, he uses the story of Noah and the ark as one way of dealing with overwhelming circumstances; he then writes that there have been many ark builders in history. Ford also explains that overwhelmings are a natural part of life - again, the example of Noah is presented here; after having survived the flood, he went on to plant a vineyard that grew grapes, which fermented, and Noah was overwhelmed by the alcohol. We may not have global, catastrophic floods with any regularity, but drunkenness is still high on the list of overwhelming issues in the world.

However, do not get the wrong impression about this book. This is not a book about morality as much as it is a book about guiding one's life in the midst of such overwhelming things in a productive and spiritually-satisfying way. This is not a 'God's little rulebook' kind of text, but rather a wide-ranging theological discussion with some practical examples and suggestions accompanying the main essay.

We use this book in the first course required of most students at my seminary - seminary is an overwhelming experience. It is worthwhile reading for each year, for students in any graduate or professional school, for students starting college, for people beginning new jobs or careers, for people beginning families, and for people generally living their lives wondering how to cope and make life spiritually more fulfilling.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
good but dated 8 May 2014
By Mr. D. P. Jay - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I’ve been impressed by this author on TV, not least because he is a lay theologian. He is the founding director of the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme and a co-founder of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning, something that interests me as an exciting way forward in inter faith dialogue. He has also lived in inner city Birmingham so he is no ivory tower theologian and ha can write in ordinary language for ordinary people.

This could be used as a Lent book as it is broken up into seven chapters and questions for group discussion. It is also one of the few books that I’d recommend for an adult study group at other times of the year. The Market is overwhelmed with lightweight evangelical pap so this book is refreshingly different, though I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a ‘spiritual classic’ as some have done.

However, I was disappointed with this book for myself. I would have liked to see more examples drawn from faiths other than Christianity, not least because this book is marketed as being for people of all faiths and none. There is too much Christianity.

Granted that it’s a reissue of a book published a decade ago, it seems rather dated. It talks of coping with a computer as an overwhelming process. By now, most of us, even older people, have enough knowledge of the basics to do whatever it is that we want to do.

The flood story is used as an illustration that out lives are overwhelmed: The ending of the story of Noah is, however, a reminder of the apparently endless capacity of life to produce further forms of overwhelming: Noah …….became drunk…….Drunkenness is still high among the world's ways of being habitually overwhelmed. There are frequent new addictions. A survey of users of the worldwide web in New York discovered that it was rapidly becoming a form of addiction: 17 per cent of those surveyed were on-line for purposes other than their work for over 40 hours a week…….sex, money, power, violence, knowledge, pleasure ……a war, a massacre, a stock market collapse, an AIDS epidemic, the birth of a new nation, public events which affect millions and change the course of groups and nations. Or there are more personal events — falling in love; the birth of a child; divorce; serious illness; finding or losing a job; bereavement…… The forms of escapism in response to bad types of overwhelming are endlessly varied. Some do it in a more 'internal' way, such as living a fantasy life, or becoming depressed. Others externalize it in hectic activities, anger, aggression, and many ways of `taking it out on other people'. All these responses in turn generate more events. So the consequences of multiple overwhelming create more intensive overwhelming.

I liked his term 'community of the heart': People are all around us, but they are also inside us. Each of us has a 'community of the heart' made up of those people who are most important for us. Of all the sources of overwhelming, people are the most significant. ……..A big part of our inner life is taken up with people, and they loom large in our memories, fantasies and hopes. So the shape of our living is largely created by our relationships with people….. To ask 'Who am I?' leads straight to the other people who are part of me. Is there any layer of self where there are no others? We find ourselves partly by remembering those who are the most deeply woven into us and by continuing to relate to them. An experienced psychotherapist told me that a great deal of his work is to do with the quality of the 'community' that clients carry around inside them.

With all our modern technology, we are still left feeling unsatisfied, with an ‘unrealistic expectation of comfort’: Addiction to comfort and security turns a heart in on itself….. Desires are a common form of multiple overwhelming and sorting them out is a lifetime's task…. There are two great simple Christian truths about desiring. first is that God desires us. The second is to desire what God desires, i.e. he knows best.) ….. To desire that is only conceivable if we are assured that G `pleasure and disposal' are utterly for our good and our joy, that we really can trust in his promises and rely on endless grace and forgiveness. And having glimpsed this astonishing vocation, `married' to the God of the universe, is it worth living or dying anything less?

‘Character’, apart from virtue ethics, is little spoken of these days and our schools no longer see its formation as important. Yet: The long-term living out of responsibilities is my definition of the shaping of good character. It is a daily drama of virtues and vices, as our desires and compulsions pass over into patterns of behaviour. The stakes are as high as possible - lives spoilt or made radiant, hearts closed in fear or opened in hospitality, and the flourishing or not of marriages, families, businesses, institutions and nations. But the secret of really good character, which gives that shock of surprise and exhilaration, and which has the capacity to help energize the goodness of others, does not lie just in following good principles or doing our duty or any of the other formulas for goodness, though these have their place. It is beyond formulas, and clearly has to be a secret that is up to coping with the multiple overwhelmings of life. The secret is therefore itself likely to be overwhelming.

Some aim for perfection without defining their notion of ‘perfection’: in the Sermon on the Mount: 'You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect' ……..is an overwhelming demand. But its meaning may surprise us. It clearly depends on how God is perfect….God gives and forgives abundantly, and is us to give and forgive abundantly: this is the great virtuous circle of joyful responsibility. The crucial thing is: God is utterly for us, but that is not at all in order to take away our responsibility. On the contrary, God is for us so that we can be wholeheartedly for God and for other people. God shares both joy and responsibility. And God always gives us more than enough to enable us to follow divine desires. Within all this, virtues are our habits of being for other people in ordinary life

I’m glad he values retreats, though their popularity is beginning to wane since he first wrote this and many retreat houses are closing down because they are economically unviable: It is likely that there will be at least as many ways of filling such times as there are ways of being intimate with those we love. And one of the repeated discoveries of such vigils is that there is no competition between intimacy with God and with other people. On the contrary, it is in such times that we relate most deeply to other people, and frequently find our relationships transformed in the process. We tend to develop a taste for these extended prayer times, and expand them into periods completely away from routine so that prayer can take even longer. Retreats are the commonest way of doing this. It is no accident that in a society of intensifying multiple overwhelmings the retreat movement is flourishing.

And we have much to learn from Judaism when it comes to our unhealthy life-work (im)balance: `Rest before work' is the motto of a friend of mine. He does not see rest only as a reward for work already done. He takes time off before a specially busy period and just enjoys himself. He treats his day the same way, punctuating it with breaks for exercise or something leisurely. It is an energizing routine, and he gets a great deal done. Above all it breaks the power of one of the main compulsions of our society, addiction to urgency. This addiction dominates the day with a string of urgent matters. It is deeply suspicious of rest or leisure so long as anything considered urgent remains to be done. We know we are suffering from it if, whenever we do one thing, we immediately think of ten more that need to be done and start doing one of them. In extreme cases it fills day after day with work, and the time for a break or a holiday never comes. In the worst instances of all, the addict combines with others to create a climate or culture of urgency in which nobody can take time off with an easy conscience. This and other distortions of the relation of leisure to work are common in a society whose main criterion for its own health is economic success, and which encourages people to focus their identities through their jobs… It is a liberation to believe that rest and leisure are just as much am imperative as work. It also affects the whole shape of our life. I remember a rabbi in a television interview being asked: 'Ho have the Jews managed to preserve the sabbath over thousands of years ?' His reply was: 'It is not the Jews who have preserved the sabbath. The sabbath has preserved the Jews.'… The global marketplace produces many casualties. There are the unemployed and also those who are constantly overworked.

The school calendar, with its in service days, parents’ consultation evenings and the like, plus the fortnightly timetable, set out, in June, my every movement for the next year. We need to see the bigger picture when mapping out our year: the church year gives us the plot of the drama in which our life is a little role …….when we celebrate the Eucharist we identify with the drama afresh see our own lives in its light. To do this week after week, year after year, can transform our sense of time past, present and future.

No religious book can duck the question of suffering and evil, unless it is content to remain happy clappy, superficial and useless but the chapter in this book starts off glum, as the author himself admits: Suffering is the greatest teacher; the consecrated suffering of one soul teaches another. I think we have got all our values wrong, and suffering is the crown of life. Suffering and expansion, what a rich combination! Religion has never made me happy; it's no use shutting the eyes to the fact that the deeper you go, the more alone you will find yourself. Suffering can expand, suffering can contract….. (von Hugel) Extreme suffering typically cuts us off from people, often from those who could best help us. It isolates us, drives us in on ourselves, makes us think that nobody could know what it is like. It can also, of course, unite us to them even more deeply, but that is not by any means an automatic process…... 'Clinical interventions' have their place, but they deal with a very limited range of problems. If deep suffering and evil could be dealt with by formulas, techniques and a problem-solving mentality, then our civilization above all should have been able to make progress in coping with war, poverty, debt, violence, addiction, family break-up, injustice, and the multitude of other evils and miseries which fill the media.

All of which takes us to the cross but it ends, not with a predictable and embarrassing altar call but with the promise of resurrection.

I got bored with the endless poems by Michael O'Sidheal. Then again, poetry has never been my thing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Turning chaos into substance... 29 Aug. 2004
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book was written at the request of George Carey, the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, as a Lenten study. The shape of the book matches that purpose -- there are six chapters to match the six weeks of the Lenten season, and a seventh chapter that matches in theme the joy of the Easter miracle. The shape of this book in many ways parallels the scripture readings and ideas of many Lenten series. Carey provides a nice introduction (and has perhaps the longest sentence fragment I've ever read as part of that introduction, so small marks against the editing), commending the book not only to Anglican readers, but readers of all persuasions seeking greater insight into the shaping of spiritual life.

Throughout the history of human existence, life has had the potential for being overwhelming. However, this potential has never been greater than in the modern Western society - despite all of our 'labour-saving' devices and a veritable explosion of courses, books, and strategies for coping and managing stress, there is more to overwhelm us than ever. We look back with nostalgia to 'simpler times' or look forward to an easier future, not realising that neither is true. Into the mix of the rough and tumble of everyday life, sometimes we are presented with an even greater overwhelming - God calls us to do something, to be something. Talk about the ultimate overwhelming!

David Ford, a noted theologian on the faculty at Cambridge University, has written a practical book aimed at those who look for a spiritual dimension in their busy lives, particularly for those who feel a call to some kind of spiritual or ministerial vocation, but also generally accessible to all who have a sense of being called and being overwhelmed at the same time. Ford, in his introduction, makes clear his general Christian orientation, but does a good job throughout of being general enough that adherents of any religious faith would find value in the text - it is not a dogmatic one by any means.

Ford begins from the standpoint of community and people - our lives might not seem so overwhelming if they were lived alone and in isolation (although some who have tried this tactic of 'getting away from it all' have had their own overwhelmings). These can be our families, friends and neighbours, as well as people in the past - those we carry with us in our interior being.

Ford addresses the call in our lives in the second chapter - what satisfies our deepest longings? What are we truly called to do in our lives? The process of discernment can be a formal process for some, and an informal process for others, but it is always there in some form if we open ourselves up to it. Ford looks at vocation in the broadest sense - our callings are not just to career and profession, but to life as a whole.

In subsequent chapters, Ford looks at overwhelmings that are good and bad, the idea of goodness generally, and various issues of how we spend our time, energy, and even information about ourselves. Can secrecy be part of this process of dealing with overwhelming? There are various disciplines discussed here.

Ford uses biblical stories as well as the poetry of Micheal O'Siadhail as primary texts, and weaves in his own experiences as well as those of others into the mix. For example, he uses the story of Noah and the ark as one way of dealing with overwhelming circumstances; he then writes that there have been many ark builders in history. Ford also explains that overwhelmings are a natural part of life - again, the example of Noah is presented here; after having survived the flood, he went on to plant a vineyard that grew grapes, which fermented, and Noah was overwhelmed by the alcohol. We may not have global, catastrophic floods with any regularity, but drunkenness is still high on the list of overwhelming issues in the world.

However, do not get the wrong impression about this book. This is not a book about morality as much as it is a book about guiding one's life in the midst of such overwhelming things in a productive and spiritually-satisfying way. This is not a 'God's little rulebook' kind of text, but rather a wide-ranging theological discussion with some practical examples and suggestions accompanying the main essay.

We use this book in the first course required of most students at my seminary - seminary is an overwhelming experience. It is worthwhile reading for each year, for students in any graduate or professional school, for students starting college, for people beginning new jobs or careers, for people beginning families, and for people generally living their lives wondering how to cope and make life spiritually more fulfilling.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Wise Book 10 Aug. 2000
By Quanlin Guo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Reading this book was like listening to a wise teacher in the Christian life.
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