Eerdmans, 208 pages
It is ironic that someone who doesn’t make lists was asked to review a book on making lists! So it was with a skeptical eye that I began reading Marilyn McEntyre’s “Make a List .”
You do not have to go to far into the book to discover that McEntyre has created a whole new paradigm shift, moving lists out of being simply to-do taskmasters and into being a tool to help us delve deeper into our lives and indeed into our very souls. From discovering layers of feeling, to naming what you want, to getting at the questions behind the questions, McEntyre offers her own lists as examples while suggesting list topics to start you on your own journey of digging deeper. The topics range from spiritual (lament, path-finding) to practical (invitations to fun and playfulness). Some of her sample list starters include:
- What to do with five whole minutes?
- Hills I don’t want to die on.
- What’s great about being 50 (or 70 or 30)?
- What needs to be clarified?
- What might comfort look like?
- “Fun” I don’t intend to have anymore.
She even reclaims the to-do list, transforming it into a way to dive deeper into values and priorities.
The whole time I was reading this book, I kept thinking of the quote from the first chapter of Calvin’s Institutes: “Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God.” To engage in list-making as McEntyre suggests is to open the possibility of finding treasures within ourselves and in our relationship with God that we never knew were there.
This book could easily lend itself to helping people engage in a new short-term spiritual practice or even a long-term spiritual discipline. A small small group could choose list topics so that both individuals and the group can go deeper together.
I began McEntyre’s book with skepticism, but ended with the motivation to try something new. Now the challenge for me is see if there is a cool list-making app that can help me organize and keep up with the lists I make!
MARY RODGERS is the associate pastor at Providence Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Virginia.