Thursday, July 28, 2011

Need a Meeting?

Most of you know that I am a recovering addict and that I attend three meetings aweek. Two to help others and one to continue my own journey. Perhaps you have wondered what goes on there. This little video is a classic example of the blessed moments we spend together learning of the Atonement.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Would I Do If....

I have a dream of spending a summer living in Sutton, Quebec.  It is a little town I have fallen in love with.  Many of my ancestors settled there around 1800.  While I probably have a few cousins still hanging around Sutton, and while I sure like to meet them, that is just part of the draw.  I'd like to stroll down country lanes and hike wooded paths.  I'd like eat baguettes in little bistros and chat with the locals on a sidewalk bench.  I'd like to converse with a favorite author, who happens to live there.  I'd like to study French.  I'd like to haunt local book stores and join a book club.  I'd like to find fellowship in the local Ward.  I'd like to smell the timothy hay being cut in the gorgeous fields.

I am on my way to that goal.  Still, it may be some time before it is actually arrive in Sutton.

This morning, feeling a bit unsettled, and having a bit of free time on my hands, I found myself wondering, "What would I do if I were living in Sutton right now?"  I decided I'd probably go for a morning hike in the woods followed by a quiet lunch in a little bistro in town.  Then, I thought, ought I not to be doing the same thing right here where I am?  Of course I should!

I jumped in the car and drove up Hwy 191 to the place Brush Creek crosses the road.  Just south of that junction is a trail into a canyon I've long wanted to explore.  It had rained over night and the air was cool and moist.  The sandy bottom of the wash was firm and damp.  Perfect for hiking.  It looked as if a pretty good stream had run down the wash during the night, but now, not even a trickle.

My friend Tom had designed this trail for the BLM a few years ago, but I have never taken the time to hike it.  Oh, what I have missed!  It was a great three hour excursion that really lifted my spirits!  What a joy to see  slick rock arches, massive junipers, even a surprise clump of Quakies, or as Tom would surely say, Populus tremuloides, everything so fresh and washed clean.  The scudding clouds still lay low on these fringes of the mountain and provided shade and freshness even as late as eleven.  Tom had designed the trail very well.  I had thought the trail continued on for miles, but if it did, I lost it somewhere.  It ended, for me, in a box canyon full of squawberry bushes and teeming with birds.  I saw Rufous-sided Towhees, Albert's Towhees, Blue Gray Gnat Catchers and Vireos, as well as Ravens, Canyon Wrens and Doves.

Climbing out of the canyon I got a great view of the mountain and of Simplot's phosphate operations.  It was a splendid hike on a magnificent morning.

Driving home, wishing Vernal had a quaint little place to eat, it occurred to me that Bitter Creek Bookstore has put in a little bistro in the back called the Backdoor Grille.  I decided it was the perfect time to give it a try.  I had a marvelous Tuscan chicken panini with a nice raspberry smoothie.  The atmosphere was charming.  Cookies were baking in the oven and the gals were busy making the soup du jour.  (See even a little French!) Kathy asked friendly questions and Alan sold me a used Dean Koontz novel; one that had slipped by me some years ago.

I'm still headed for Sutton someday, but should I die, before my journey's through, happy day, I'm having a great time right where I am.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Joy In That Which Ye Have Desired

A number of thoughts, pointers, notions, doctrines and stories have been collectively playing upon my mind this week.  They seem to be coalescing into an approach to living that I can no longer ignore.  I'll briefly summarize the gist of years of collected concepts and then examine my conclusion.
Stephen R. Covey, while discussing his Second Habit - Begin with the End in Mind, mentions that everything must be created spiritually, before it is created physically.
The Lord in D&C 124:99 promised William Law that, "he shall mount up in the imagination of his thoughts as upon eagles’ wings.
Richard Paul Evans very graphically explained how looking through The Spyglass and seeing what might be, enables us to "make it so." 
Lehi declares in 1 Nephi 5:5, "I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice..."  (Note that this is long before he ever arrived in the Americas.)
Alma observed of Lehi's journey to the Promised Land, "For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land. (see Alma 37:44) 
The Lord promises that if we let virtue (any admirable quality, feature, or trait; or moral excellence, righteousness) garnish our thoughts unceasingly (among other wonderful blessings) our "dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto (us) forever and ever."
Each of these wonderful observations has simmered in my heart for a good long time.  Then the other day, when I read The Jackrabbit Factor, they all began to form into a joyful, hopeful desire. What if I actually began to practice these principles? a whole?  I've often set goals.  I frequently dream of a wonderful future different from my present.  I'm beginning to hope that my fragmented approach, though well intended, has ruined my chances for success because of a confused view of what I hoped to accomplish.

Should I not, under the direction of the Spirit of God be able to let my imagination soar as on eagles wings and thereby spiritually create a future of such magnificence that I might be wont to call it the Promised Land?  Then, if I have created this future of promise under God's direction, may I not rejoice at having already obtained it?  Having it as my own, from the perspective of faith and vision, will I not cross deserts and oceans and fear and doubt with a virtuous eye fixed upon my physical arrival at such a destination?  Knowing that in a very real way it is already mine, will I not be able to rejoice not only in what is to be, but in what is?  Will I not be more able to live in the moment, knowing that the promise is sure and that without compulsory means it all shall freely flow unto me?  Will I not, while focusing on my spiritually created future, be more motivated to further seek the guidance of my internal Liahona to direct my decisions so as to keep me on a straight course to such a destination?

I have come to believe that these principles are true.  I am, today, embarking upon my own journey to the Promised Land.  I hope to obtain it soon, though it may be years before I physically arrive.  I expect to enjoy the journey in the sure knowledge that the promise is mine, not only then but now.

The Lord promised Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, "Verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired.  (see D&C 7:8)  They, like Lehi, were able to rejoice, knowing that which was promised, by its very nature, was already theirs. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Review - The Jackrabbit Factor by Leslie Householder

I've been down in the dumps of late.  Rather frustrated with a very uncertain future.  Sweetie and I went to the library yesterday and selected a few books.  As we approached the counter the clerk, after registering Sweetie's card, produced a book that was on hold for her.  It was The Jackrabbit Factor.

Sweetie had never heard of it and was quite certain that she had never requested it from the library.  We checked it out any way.  I had picked up a Dean Koontz novel I had not read yet and was very excited to read it.

Sometime during the day, on an impulse I picked up The Jackrabbit Factor and began to read.  I hated it.  I fought it.  I criticized it.  I complained about it.  And now, less than 24 hours later, I've finished it.

I hate self help books.  I mocked Stephen R. Covey's praise for the book as I read the back cover.  While praising Householder, Covey seemed to reveal his own vanity.  Inside the cover I feared I had found yet another purveyor of the gospel of greed.

I have a friend who often quotes his mission president,
 "He who worships at the altar of self-improvement, also worships a false God."
While I have no real beef with Covey's 7 Habits, I do have a good deal to say about the Korihor-esque approach to life management he has incorporated into the paper and computer systems he sells.  I have become certain that success comes, not from taking control of our lives, but from giving control to God.  That method has largely governed my life for the past six years and has been far more productive than the Covey method I used for so many years before that.  While planning is necessary, Richard Eyre's method as described in The Three Deceivers, is far more productive, much less time consuming and tons more fun.

The Three Deceivers was not a self help book, by my definition, but rather a fresh way of looking at life.  In the end, so was The Jackrabbit Factor.  While I am repulsed by greed, which revulsion probably tainted my view as I began the read; I am inspired by abundant thinking, which this book fostered in a bright new way.

I harbor queasy misgivings about the rah rah approach of Anthony Robbins, Smith/Covey Inc. and others who attract wealth by promising wealth to others who'll follow their "programs."  And the Householders seem to have pursued the same course.  It all seems too gimmicky to me.  But hey, if there is something I can glean from all the hoopla, why not.  It hasn't cost me anything but a bit of time, which I'd probably have wasted any way.

The part I liked was mostly stuff I have already experienced and had previously come to believe.  The fact that I've been down in the dumps is a clear indicator that I had not been living congruently with those beliefs, though.  Looking back I realize my life is replete with examples of how these methods of thinking really work.  I must credit the book with stimulating a more concentrated focus on the matter and thus a marked emergence from the doldrums.  The fundamental things are true, powerful and available to all.  But you don't need to buy the book, I'll gladly teach them to you for free.

Householder points out that the "things we want, want us."  In this case the book seems to have wanted me when I didn't necessarily want it.  I have to admit that it did turn up at a most opportune time.

Three Stars

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Review - Daily Riches - A Journal of Gratitude and Awareness by Bluestein, Lawrence and Sanchez

The reading of this book is the kindest gift I've given myself in a very very long time.  As it is also an ongoing tool, it is also a gift that will keep on giving.  Enough said.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Self-Inflicted Hair Cut

I haven't had a satisfactory hair cut since Loran quit cutting hair six or seven years ago.  He'd cut my hair for years.  He knew my style, short, simple and enduring.  I have better things to do than sit in a barber shop, so I expect a cut to last three months.  Loran understood this.  He was a traditional barber who stropped a straight razor on a belt, foamed me up around the ears and neckline with warm lather, and shaved a nice clean border on my pate.

Since Loran retired I've had to settle for having a far less than satisfactory hair cut inflicted upon me by hair stylists.  Stubborn lot, hair stylists.  It's their way, or the highway.  No shaving around the ears.  No smooth clean taper.  Every time I've had to come home and shave my own neck.  How is it stylish to have long hairs running down my neck and beneath my collar?  I've complained about this.  I've even been told that it had been done, only, upon inspection, to find it hadn't.  I guess women don't get those run-away hairs below the neckline.  And, lets face it; hair stylists are trained to cut women's hair, not men's.  I've shopped around.  The big salons never give you the same stylist twice.  The little one's don't seem to listen and seem to be as independent as welders.  I often say, "You can always tell a welder, you just can't tell him much."  So it is with stylists.  I've tried complaining, tipping, long lengthy descriptions of what I'm looking for, heck, I've even threatened a few times, and still I come home with unsatisfactory results.

Now, lest you think me picky, I don't have very lofty standards for a hair cut.  I don't expect to magically, be made handsome by a hair cut.  Nothing short of a face transplant could accomplish that.  I just want a smooth even cut that at least looks as good as my lawn when it's finished.  I don't want missed spots and I want it trimmed up around the edges.  Is that too much to ask?

After several years of forking out cash for hair cuts that I, or my wife, had to remodel each time I returned home; I decided to take matters into my own hands.  If I am going to look like this one way or the other I'd just as soon inflict the pain on myself as pay someone else to do it.  I bought a nice set of clippers and went at it.

I'm jealous of Howie Mandel.  If I had a nice round, presentable, head like his, I'd just shave it and call it good.  Instead, I have a head covered with knots, crevices, ridges and moles.  How much is my viewing public expected to take?  Then, again, even that is pretty high maintenance, and seems trumped by a periodic hair cut.  Speaking of trump, I must admit that I've never once sported a worse hair cut than The Donald.  But I digress....

Back to self-inflicted hair cuts...

I am uncoordinated, utterly helpless at making my mind reverse it self while using a mirror as a reference when working on the back, and I surely lack an artistic flair for such things; but, I can make a hair cut last three months, and that is all I ever wanted in the first place.

It has been said that the difference between a good and bad hair cut is just a couple of days.  I can buy that.  So if I cut my hair on Monday, I have plenty of time to look presentable for church.  If not I can always sit on the back row.  In my book, the difference between a good and bad hair cut is $20.00.  The good one is free!  No lines, appointments, angst, repairs, premature returns to the salon, unrealistic expectations, disappointments, frustrations, swear words or Amway sales pitches - just free.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Book Review - The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan

I really enjoy Amy Tan's books.  They are fresh and interesting.  I enjoy the contrast in American and Chinese cultures she addresses so well.  This one was better in most respects that either The Joy Luck Club or The Bonesetter's Daughter, both of which, I also enjoyed.

This one is quite mystical and philosophical, perhaps more so than any of Tan's novels, which gave it the appeal I prefer.  I want to learn something about myself in a book, even if it's about China.  I felt I learned a lot this time.  Here's a quote about one great lesson for me:
"Anyway, yin people talk about life already gone, like banquet, many-many flavors, 'Oh,' they say, 'now I remember.  This part I enjoy, this I not enjoy enough.  This I eat up too fast.  Why I don't taste that one?  Why I let this piece of my life gone spoiled, complete wasted?'"
You'll surely note the pidgin English, in the statement.  This is so true of me.  I pursue this pleasure, obtain that instrument, acquire that tool or those friends, only to get distracted and neglect some, while consuming others, not necessarily by priority, but based on the expedience of the moment.  Who wants to wind up with a pile of regret at the end.

The story moves from San Francisco to a small village outside Guilin, China.  Tan is a master of description and I loved my visit to China through her words.  The tastes, smells, traffic, shops all come to life in the pages of the book.

Much of the story takes place in the turmoil of the nineteenth century where we learn of Christian missionaries and political waves of oppression and war.  The main story is modern.  In fact too modern for my taste.  A bit crass, drifting in the winds of an unanchored culture of academia, hedonism, and agnostic futility.

The story, philosophy, discovery all could have, should have taught great lessons to the protagonist upon whom it all seems to have no conclusion, no effect.  It looks like, Tan wants to be realistic in the end, for after taking her character through opportunity after opportunity to learn and grow; after making the reader aware that the woman can make astute observations about the meaning of her experience; she lets us see, that ultimately she is neither changed nor blessed by the struggle she experiences.  It's as if she is saying life, experience, education, discovery offer no real gifts to those who endure them.

I'd characterize the book as magnificently entertaining, and largely pointless.

Three Stars
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