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Seven Sins for a Life Worth Living
by Roger Housden
Harmony, 2005

review by John Tintera

One of the ironies of modern Western civilization is that despite all of our freedoms, we still haven’t figured out how to end the “quiet desperation” at the heart of our lives. Faith, family, and friends; volunteerism; and maybe even our careers provide for a certain amount of contentment—but where’s the abundance that Jesus promised? In his latest book, the author of the Ten Poems Series and How Rembrandt Reveals Your Beautiful Imperfect Self provides some helpful tips for finding greater contentment in life.

The “seven sins” mentioned in the title are not the traditional deadly sins, but are tiny ways to rebel against some of the “thou shalts” of modern life. These are: Thou shalt race through your life; cram as many things into your day as possible; do nothing impractical; fill your head with tons of information—especially the daily news; never appear not to know; be a productive citizen; and never ever make a mistake. While none of Housden’s remedies are that original or drastic (thankfully!), he writes in such a charming, winning style that just reading the book will make your cup overflow.

For many, the approach of middle age brings on a sense of loss or disappointment, a wondering why our lives aren’t bigger or why we’re not famous or more successful. Unlike when we were in school, where achievement was clearly measurable, in the real world, true success is much more elusive. Housden speaks to this by telling us a few things about his own life, which for the most part was spent traveling around the world seeking adventure. For many years he was a super-achiever, but now he’s discovered a different sort of pleasure:

In my living room, near the window, is a long table with a round blue bowl on it. It must have been there for a year or more, but it’s only recently that I’ve begun to notice that large blue bowl. Even a week ago I barely knew it was there. Now it fills me with pleasure, I don’t know why.

Comparing the bowl, which is thick and ordinary, to a blue-collar worker, he continues:

It holds a few grubby finger marks, a scattering of dust, a solitary lemon, and some long silver slivers of light from the window… This morning I trailed my fingers over its welcoming lip, and was surprised by the cool touch of china.

Through the image of this bowl, Housden launches the reader into a wonderful set of reflections on the pleasure of being ordinary. Here’s how he concludes:

And beneath our content or discontent is the deeper condition we all share, whether we acknowledge it or not: we are here, we are human, a glorious nothing much to speak of, whoever we are, an essential flash in the pan whose purpose will always be in the living and not in the telling…

Martin Luther is reported to have said, “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world.” The sins in this book are not really sins at all, but small things anyone can do to recover a sense of contentment amidst what Housden calls “the deluge” of our days.

Copyright ©2006 John Tintera

Seven Sins for a Life Worth Living
To purchase a copy of SEVEN SINS FOR A LIFE WORTH LIVING, visit amazon.com. This link is provided as a service to explorefaith visitors and registered users.


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