Book Review: the Workbook on the Ten Commandments by Maxie D. Dunnam
by Peter Menkin 1/18/2009 / Book Reviews
A book for learning and understanding
Two summers ago I had a yearning to learn more about The Ten Commandments. But I did not know where to begin, and when I asked people I thought knew, they had no book recommendations. How I found this title, one of four I read that summer on The Ten Commandments, is through Upper Room Publications, who are publishers of "Weavings." "Weavings" is a journal of the Christian spiritual life. So I had a context for this workbook. And it is a workbook that takes on eight weeks to complete.
The other three books I found on a website that was Episcopalian and recommended books of denominations other than the Methodist, where the workbook arises. In case you want a summer program of your own of The Ten Commandments, I give you the titles of my other three books, which I purchased: "Broken Tablets: Restoring the Ten Commandments and Ourselves," (a Jewish viewpoint); "Do We Still Need the Ten Commandments: A Frsh Look at God's Laws of Love," (Catholic viewpoint); "Commandments of Compassion," (Catholic viewpoint). Funny, I didn't discover a book published by an Episcopal publisher, but I thought this was good enough and should be good reading and study.
Probably designed for small groups, as well as for individual study, "The Workbook on the Ten Commandments" by Maxie Dunnam and Kimberly Dunnam Reisman, experienced retreat leaders, is a clear, enjoyable and demanding exercise in understanding and news. One piece of news and action as a result of that news to me, came from one question early in the book. This was the first week of the workbook, which also suggested that the same week I memorize the Ten Commandments. It took me some doing, but I did it and I understand it better from doing so. There is something to be said for memorizing the Ten Commandments. They are good for bringing to mind.
The question that was news to me: "Recall the last time you had a conversation with someone about the role of individual morality in our culture and how we as a people, corporately, may have lost our sense of sin. Make some notes about the occasion and the key points in that conversation." I wrote in my answer, in blue pen, "I have never done so. There is no interest in the Ten Commandments among friends or people I know." Pretty bleak. The result of this self revelation, of which the book stirs many, has been my own willingness to bring the Ten Commandments to my friends, and to hopefully find a way to enter into a conversation about respective morality and sin. I must answer, this has continued to be rare, and I think it shows that we, and that means ones I know, are spiritually and morally lacking. There is that danger in doing the workbook. You may stumble upon similar recognitions.
There is a lot in this workbook. Again, from the beginning, in the section, "The Mount to Which We Can Come," there is a question where one checks off the Commandments most difficult, and those violoated most often. Then the reader is asked to write a brief prayer committing him or herself to serious consideration of The Ten Commandments. I wrote in the workbook this prayer: "Dear Lord--I open my heart and mind to you, seeking to have your life and light in the inntermost recesses of my soul, to yield my life to You as I understand my life and You. I commit myself to the study of the Ten Commandments in the weeks ahead." This is a personal prayer, and prayer time is part of the workbook.
The writers of the book, father and daughter, take side roads that are relevant to the Commandments. Day 5 in the workbook is titled, "What's in a Name?" The authors' quote reads, "You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name." (Exocus 20:7). At the end of this chapter is a place for confession, and a little fearful that someone would stumble on the workbook and learn my secret failings, and some more obvious, I wrote in addition to the confession a pledge to live a life worthy of bearing God's name. You as reader of this review can see that this is a more serious workbook than not.
There's something good about, and strengthening about words on the Ten Commandments. These are some daily study titles: "Honoring Parents," "Honoring--No Matter What," "Children, Obey Your Parents," "Respect and Acceptance." Bear with me for I want to share the kind of quotes found in the workbook. They aren't strictly the usual list. "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. You shall each revere your mother and father, and you shall keep my sabbaths: I am the Lord your God.--Leviicus 19:1-3."
There are some nice statements in this book, the like of which is one regarding, "Do Not Commit Adultery:" "Our faithfulness to each other affects our faithfulness to God." Here is a current question for reflection in the seventh week that is about, "Stealing--Taking What Rightly Belongs to Another:" "Make a list of groups or programs that provide guidance, support, and inspiration for people to live the commandments in the marketplace."
This workbook is a seemingly light read, easy, and filled with ways to live ones life. Surprisingly, I say easy for one would think such weighty things as The Ten Commandments would be a heavy burden. Not so with this workbook. It is a meaningful book that you can spend time with during a special summer study, at home, as did I. Or you can use it in small groups, probably the main purpose for which it was written. I am glad I found this book and you can see that it is certainly worth the time it takes to go through.
--Peter Menkin, Mill Valley, CA USA
Peter Menkin, an aspiring poet, lives in Mill Valley, CA USA where he writes poetry. He is an Oblate of Immaculate Heart Hermitage, Big Sur, CA and that means he is a Camaldoli Benedictine. He is 64 years of age as of 2010.