by Kary Oberbrunner [Baker Books]
I received a pre-release electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I just finished Kary Oberbrunner’s book and I’m conflicted. I’m giving the book three stars. Overall the book was a good positive book. There were many helpful points, and thoughts. Following the exercises to create one’s OPUS and Six Pack would be powerful and could serve to clarifies one’s life purpose. However, I did have some reservations as well. I will outline those after I comment on what I found helpful.
Kary’s story is powerful and insightful. Through his story, he points to the reality of pain, the reality of God, and the reality of living past the pain. I found the second section, The How, especially helpful, challenging, and redeeming. As Kary demonstrates, it is possible to embrace one’s pain and find hope, joy, and life. I loved his stress on silence versus noise and how we tend to drown out our pain. Instead of ignoring our pain, Oberbrunner encourages us to embrace it and move through it to healing..
I also appreciated Kary’s willingness, not to provide answers. He gives four truths that point to the reality of God, but also hold God’s goodness, omniscience, and power. Those who are able to embrace the mystery of pain in relationship to the mystery of God find hope and healing.
That being said, I did have some reservations surrounding the research, illustrations, and a humanistic focus.
While I was not looking for errors or inaccuracies, I noticed a few. Oberbrunner mentions, the often quoted quip, that the bible contains the command to “fear not” 366 times. This is inaccurate. The bible does not say “fear not” or “do not fear” or “do not be afraid,” etc. 366 times or even 365 times. I’m not sure where this idea began, but it is not true and it keeps getting repeated through twitter, movies, and now books. I was surprised that Baker books didn’t check this a bit better. The bible does tells us to not fear…very well. We do not need to add more references just because it makes a nice quip.
While there are extensive endnotes, Oberbrunner chose not reference some quotes. I assume this was because he couldn’t find the source reference. The lack of some references caused me to wonder if these were real quotes, or, like the 366 biblical fear nots, just a nice saying that has been wrongly attributive. It is nice to say, so and so said this, or wrote this, but it would have been helpful to know where it was said as well.
Looking through the endnotes one will discover that many of the quotes and info came from websites like thinkexist and such. This points to pulling quotes out that speak to one’s point, but not going back to the original source can create a disconnection with what the original author intended. Context can be important.
Personally, I got a bit bogged down with the movie references. At one point, Oberbrunner quotes the movie, Serendipity, that says the Greeks did not write obituaries, all they cared about was passion. This is not quite accurate. The Greeks had long eulogies, and while what they wrote might not be the same type of ‘obituary’ we have today, it certainly shows that they didn’t’ just care about passion. Pop-culture is something readers will identify with, but I’m not sure that’s the best place to find support for beliefs on which to build life.
Because of the issues I had with the research, even though Oberbrunner writes some very helpful things, I had difficulty fully embracing his conclusions.
My biggest concern was with the humanistic tone. While it uses the shroud of faith, I felt that the Deeper Path was mostly about me; my dreams, my desire, my OPUS. God is there to help me…or perhaps to serve me in this discovery. At one point the author states that, “Authoring our OPUS is a process that helps us become the driver of our destiny and the captain of our calling.” While he dilutes this some with the next sentence, “Although our steps are ordained by our Creator, he invites us to co-create with him” the focus is still on me. I don’t remember Jesus asking his disciples to co-create their call with him. I do remember Jesus telling the disciples to follow him, to obey him, and to keep his words. He said if they loved him, they would keep his commandments.
Elsewhere he writes, “I believe seeing your Creator will help you create your new life.” Who is the creator here? Again, we are.
The author talks about Jesus and the joy of the cross and indicated that the joy of the cross was there because he could see his crown. While it is important to see past one’s pain, Jesus’ joy was to be obedient to the will of the father. The joy of the cross was in the fulfillment of God’s will. Jesus’ joy was directly related to him following God’s will for his life, not because of a crown. After all, Jesus had all of heaven before he humbled himself and came to earth. Again, Jesus’ joy was in fulfilling God’s will and we find joy in God’s will as well. Living out our own dream may be exciting, but our dreams will not bring the lasting and fulfilling joy of following the will of God.
God’s calling is our destiny. While the OPUS process is probably very helpful in clarifying our lives, it will only be christian if it enables us to discern God’s will and way. I didn’t’ catch a lot of surrendering to God, but I could see how, if that is one’s foundation, OPUS might help in discerning God’s will.
If you like the life coaching genre, with good stories, illustrations, etc and want to find hope and help even in your pain, you will enjoy this book. While I outline the issues I had, if you are able to see past those, you will find many places of reflection and prayer.
I know this review is quite long, but I want to comment on the Amazon reviews. It was my understanding that Amazon doesn’t allow reviews before a book is published. This book is to be published the middle of February, but there are 27 reviews from January 28th and 29th. They are all 5 star reviews. I looked through some of them and discovered that many of these reviewers have only reviewed this one book. Some have reviewed all of Oberbrunner’s books. While there is nothing wrong with this, it does cause me to wonder about the circumstance surrounding why the review was written.