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Posted October 4, 2012
Specific and Practical
In a video about her new book, Mary Elizabeth Sperry describes her audience as those who are more likely to know about Oprah and Dr. Oz than Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. The overall theme of “Ten” is the role of the commandments in helping us develop habits that lead to healthy relationships with God, self, others, and things. Sperry recommends a workbook approach, rather than a cover-to-cover reading of Ten. Each chapter builds on those before, she writes, and the habit-forming exercises are cumulative: “Following one commandment makes it easier to follow them all.”
The format of the book, with all chapters based on a single, identifiable pattern, lends to the theme. Each commandment has its own chapter consisting of a reflection followed by several short sections that (1) summarize the main point, (2) connect with current culture, and (3) offer a role model. Sperry closes with a “Try This” section that involves looking back over the day and writing in a journal. That’s followed by “Talk It Through” questions and an original prayer.
The following examples appear in the activities section of the first commandment chapter, entitled "Creating Priority." The summary reminds us that God must be our ultimate priority, and strengthening our spiritual lives requires "intentional effort over time." As in most other chapters, the culture connection here is based on a modern film ("Up in the Air"). The role model is Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who died of cancer in 1996. "Cardinal Bernardin's priority was clear: God came first," writes Sperry.
The first commandment Try This suggests spending a few minutes before bed thinking about our day; answering questions on tasks and relationships to which we devoted energy; how that effort reflected our true priorities; and what one step we might take tomorrow to help align our priorities and efforts. We would follow up by reviewing what we wrote the next morning. Talk It Through questions for this chapter address changes in our priorities over time and ways we have organized our lives to reflect our priorities.
This work accomplishes what it set out to do: set a clear, practical path to habits leading to right relationships with God, self, others, and things. We can do this.
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