Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back At My Desk

Well, I'm back a my desk for the first time in forever.  Just for a test turn.  Sweetie spoiled me with a classy new Smart Phone and I'm learning how to post on the fly.  Hopefully, I'll be posting more often this way.  Of course I won't be nearly as verbose as I'm the world's slowest texter.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

So Grateful!

I haven't posted in a long long time.  I've been busier that a one legged man in a butt-kicking contest.  And in the end, it was I who needed, and got, the butt-kicking.

My friend Clair often says that, "Life is a series of lessons, which get repeated until they are learned."

I have had lots of experience with repeated lessons.  In fact on repeated occasions I have taken a day off, fasted and prayed, retired to the wilderness, and prayed mightily for what I needed to learn.  Always I would return with an epiphany!  The last time, when I revealed my "newly discovered" answer to Sweetie, she observed that it was the same revelation I received last time and the two or three times before that.  To put it gently, I'm a slow learner.

Always the answer has been.  "Forget about yourself and your problems and serve the Lord by serving others."  Pretty simple.  Pretty amazing how Satan uses life's circumstances to turn our concerns inward, again.

Back in August, I had another of my epiphanies and, of course, it was essentially the same discovery I always get.  At that time I realized that while I was financially poor and in difficult circumstances (lacking an adequate job to pay the bills and dig myself out of the financial pit I've digged for myself) I was, filthy rich with free time!  That was quite a realization.  Especially, when, in evaluation, I saw how much I was wasting. That morning I marched out the door with a hope of finding someone who could make better use of my time than I had been.  I didn't make it far. I found a couple around the corner unloading a number of 12 foot 2X6's from their pickup.  The boards seemed bigger than they were.  He's 88 years old by the way.  I stopped to help and asked what they were up to.

"Building a shed." was their reply.


"Yup, got bored and needed a project." he said, matter of factly.

Now his ambition did out strip his capability a little and that was where I came in.  Over the next few weeks these friends and I built a mighty fine shed.  12' X 10' X 8' with a gabled roof built with trusses my friend made himself.  I couldn't have been more happy than I was during those three weeks.  Good companionship! Strengthened friendship!  Rich rewards!  A fine education!  I learned a lot.  A lot about myself and how utterly selfish I had become.  During that time there were other opportunities to serve beyond this one and I found myself relishing the privilege.

Now my personal concerns seemed to have shifted.  No longer was I praying for a solution to my financial woes; but rather I was concerned that when I did find a job that I'd be prevented from having such blessed time to focus on others.  I had found such joy that I didn't want to lose it, ever.

It was about this time that an old friend called to suggest I apply for a job which had just opened up.  One I had never considered.  I did apply.  And was hired on the spot!  And was put right to work!  And miracle of miracles, my income has doubled.  Over night!

I've become a bus driver.  I work for Wilkins Bus Lines and make two trips to Bonanza, carrying miners, each week day.  The first run is from 3:15 to 6:15 in the morning and the second, from 1:15 to 4:15 in the afternoon.  The pay is great and the job is fun.  I drive the road I drove most of my UPS career.  The schedule doesn't interrupt any of my current projects and leaves me plenty of time to be involved in the lives of others around me.  I could not conceive of a more "tailor made" opportunity.  It fulfills my needs, hopes and dreams perfectly.  As though Someone actually cared about an obscure bit of organic matter like me.

Now, this is not all.  I've mentioned that I've spent the past 14 months caring for an Alzheimer's patient who lives across the street.  His wife needed my help so she could bring him home from the Care Center.  She has paid me handsomely for the service, especially considering the small amount of time it takes to change and turn him in his bed.  Her generosity has been such a blessing and I am overwhelmed that she considered me a blessing in her life, for I can only see it the other way around.  We never considered that he would live this many months and both of us quietly harbored some anxiety about it.

I wondered how long we could make in financially on the income from this very part-time job.  Still, I was determined to stick it out because I had committed to it for the duration.

She worried about running out of money to pay me, but needed my help and also knew that I was in great need of the income.

Out of concern for each other, we never really expressed our concerns to one another.  Then along came this job opportunity.  The bus schedule didn't interfere with the care schedule, so with her permission, I accepted the job.  It was then that I was impressed to tell her that I no longer needed to be paid for my service.  I had told her initially that I would only accept such money as I absolutely needed and that now I don't need any.  We both wept as she explained that she had been forced to consider letting me go as she'd run out of funds to continue paying me.  I still get to serve.  She still has the help she needs.  God has found us both another solution.

Now, this also meant, one month of difficult money problems at my house.  Then, along came an additional bus driving opportunity.  It pays well.  Is temporary.  Allows me to do both routes.  Problem solved.  I started working on October 20 and by the end of the month had made nearly a full month's wages.  With God, no problem falls through the cracks.

Now, I don't, in any way deserve such wonderful gifts from God.  They have not come to me and my family because we are good, but because He is good.  The only hang up has been my failure to recognize that.  An important lesson, from Jesus himself, "... there is none good, but God."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Comfort and Assurance

My youngest had a stuffed Bunny she loved.  For years she carried it everywhere and, of course, slept with it at night.  As she grew older she grew to a point where she could leave Bunny behind when she went out to play.  She and her friends spent hours outdoors in the summer, imagining and the enacting wonderful adventures.  Every hour or so, though, she would come scurrying into the house, grab her Bunny and hold it to her face.  Then she would close her eyes and draw a deep assuring breath through the fabric of her pal.  After just a moment of this, Bunny was tossed lovingly back onto the couch and Katie was off for more fun and adventure.

That is rather how I feel about General Conference.  We Latter-day Saints live lives full of joy and adventure as we strive to build the kingdom in our families and communities.  We are busy and are about the work of the Lord.  He is with us and sustains us by His Holy Spirit and by our companionship with our fellow laborers.  It is tiring, but not tiresome work.  It is full of joy and sometimes disappointment.  We might carry on okay without conference, but what joy and comfort we gain as we come scurrying in from all over the globe to pause and draw a deep breath assurance, faith and testimony.  And, then go rushing back out into the world, to love and enjoy God's children all over again!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny is also available in audio from McMillan Audio and you can win a copy of your own!

This latest in the Chief Inspector Gamache series is, in my opinion, Penny's best work yet and has, just in a week, climbed to number four on the The New York Times Best Seller list!

I'm giving away a copy here on my blog.  All you have to do is comment on my review of the book here, plus, you must become a Follower of my blog.  You can follow me by becoming an email follower and/or, by joining my blog through Google Friend Connect. Both are secure and your information will be used for no other purpose.  You can find both options at the top of the left column on my blog.  Also, if you friend me on Facebook and post a link to the contest on your wall, you will get your name entered two additional times!  Good luck!

I will hold a drawing on the 1st of October 2011 and notify the winner personally and also post their name on the blog.

Here is an audio excerpt from the book -

Monday, September 5, 2011

Book Review - A Trick Of The Light by Louise Penny

Once again Louse Penny blows my mind with a smash hit!  A Trick of the Light, her seventh in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, has surprised and astonished me.

After seven volumes of her novels, plus a near daily reading of her very candid and personal blog, I feel like I know Louse Penny pretty well.  We've even enjoyed some personal correspondence.  Still, the depth and breadth of her imagination, coupled with the richness of her humanity, leave me stunned every time I finish and reluctantly close one of her books.

I don't spoil novels by even dropping hints about their contents.  This time, though, I'm tempted.  There is so much I would like to tell you.  So much I'd like to entice you with.  As always, I'd like to suggest you go back to the beginning and start with Still Life.  This series is best enjoyed in order.  I know lots of people who've read one or two out of order and say they stand alone just fine.  It may seem so, lacking the big picture.  But the series is becoming more and more, for me, all about the big picture.  About my own big picture.  As if Louse knew me as well as I think I know her.

Now, as I am a Mormon, and as I have a mostly Mormon audience on LIVE AND LEARN; it has come time to talk about the elephant in the room.  This volume is quite abundant in its use of the F-Bomb.  Perhaps I should address this issue separately, but this is the time it matters most for me, so shoulds aside, I'm going to address it now.

I don't like that word.  It curdles my blood.  I wish it never existed.  I rejoice that nothing worse seems to be emerging in it's wake; but as its use becomes ever more common I don't think I'll ever be resigned to hearing or reading it.  I could, and previously have written diatribes about the crude, base, degrading ignorance it represents.

That said, I still recommend this book.  Please be patient and let me tell you why.  There is a reason people use such vile language, perhaps several.  Usually, it is associated with a desperation to be heard.  More and more humanity is crying out for relevance and meaning.  More and more, that desperation has invaded mainstream lives.  When we were in Montreal, a tour guide informed us of the hundreds of empty churches in that once devout city.  It is happening everywhere.  People have cut their moorings and in many cases justifiably so.  Subsequent generations have often never known the blessing of being tied to something stable, reliable.  Myriads are adrift, frustrated, and increasingly desperate for safe harbor, anchorage.

Is it any wonder that desperate to be heard, frustrated, they turn to language that calls attention to their plight?  In my work with fellow addicts I encounter such desperation on a regular basis.  My heart is filled with compassion for them.  The more I listen, really listen to their hearts, the less desperate they become to be heard and the less frequently they lash out with such language.  They are hurting and like the woman in labor, who often says things she would ordinarily not say; I feel to excuse them.

I don't like the F-word, but today it has new meaning for me.  It is no longer the expletive of a scum bag, but a cry for help.  A plea for compassion; which all to often is met with rejection that compounds the agony of the drifting soul who uses it.

Please don't be tempted to judge Louise Penny for sharing, in a frank and poignant way, what I am so feebly trying to express.  I guess she could soft petal the desperation, loneliness and emptiness of which this word is so common a symptom, by somehow toning it down; but then, I for one, would not have learned the lesson.

Louise, herself, is not so crass, nor is Chief Inspector Gamache.  I take comfort in that.  It gives me comfort that neither she nor her protagonist are adrift and that their example and centeredness are so juxtaposed to the other that we can see, and so, want what they have.

There is a difference between prudence and prudishness.  If you choose the former, you will love this book (The previous volumes are not nearly so full of such language.  This one is.  For a reason.)  If you choose the latter, you won't benefit from the story either, probably.

A Trick Of The Light is about contrasts, about opposition, about light amid darkness.  If you refuse to consider the darkness, you'll hardly appreciate the light.

A Trick Of The Light is about honesty, about the truths and lies we tell ourselves, and others.  It is about truth's effect on relationships.  Truth is I am better and more honest with myself for having read this important book.

Way to go Louise.  A Trick of the Light is your best yet.  Bury Your Dead is still my favorite.  But this one is certainly your best.

Five glorious Stars

My review of Louise Penny's Bury Your Dead.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Book Review - The Miracle of Freedom - 7 Tipping Points that Saved the World by Chris and Ted Stewart

Seldom has a book held such a soul deep captivity on my attention as Miracle of Freedom - Seven Tipping Points that Saved the World!

It is so easy to take the liberty we enjoy for granted; or it has been.  It is not so easy any longer.  I will always cherish the journey this book took me through to arrive at my current and profound appreciation for what we've been so freely given.

Of the 110 or so billion people who have lived on this planet only about four percent have lived under any privilege resembling the freedom we currently enjoy.  The rest, the great majority, have languished under oppression so appalling as to make me wonder how it could possibly be.  How could human beings be so cruel, thoughtless, greedy?  Speaking of the privileged and abusive few.  Or, how could the masses be so passive, in their squalor, deprivation and subjection?  Then you are forced to realize that for millennia, no one knew of or thought of life any other way.

I was amazed at how Stewart and Stewart made such a profound case for such obscure moments in world history.  I was amazed at how few were the brave souls who stood against oppression to give us what we now enjoy.  Clearly, the blessing of liberty was not the norm.  Clearly, it took thousands of years to prepare the earth for what we currently seem to take for granted.  Certainly, the hand of God was in those pivotal moments when, against overwhelming odds, a few brave men and women stood against forces that would have prevented progress toward this glorious age of abundance and emancipation.

This book is an interesting read; full of stories, miracles, inspiration and awe.  I could hardly put it down.  It filled my heart with gratitude and hope; while it reminded me how fragile and temporary our freedom might be, should we lose track of its value and lose courage for the constant battle that is required to maintain it.  Left to itself, the natural tendency is toward decay and so it is with individual liberty.

I will never again look at my blessed freedom with such careless disregard.  The depth of my gratitude, as I write this, amazes me.  How could one little book make such a profound difference?

Somehow, as I read the book I realized that freedom doesn't emerge on a national or global scale before it emerges in individual lives and hearts.  Many of those to whom we owe so much had personally climbed out of the captivity of ignorance, fear, doubt, excess and depravity long before they gave that gift to their fellow citizens.  So it must also be, with us.

Five Stars!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


As usual, I am up in the night.  That's right.

I don't know anybody who tries harder than I do, with less results.  Or, so I've been telling myself lately.  My frustration level has been through the roof.  I'd better not bore you with the details.  Suffice it to say that lately, no, for as long as I can remember, every thing I touch seems to turn to crap.  It seems like I have the anti-Midas touch.

I subscribe to the notion that if you find yourself in a hole the best thing to do is quit digging.  I have have made Herculean efforts to do that.  Still, it seems the hole is digging itself.  It's as if all my previous digging created some sort of inertia that has become self perpetuating.

My pit of bondage keeps growing, exponentially.

Tonight I found myself complaining that my belief in Mosiah 7:33 has become sorely shaken.  The promise of relief from bondage was offered if I would turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart and serve Him will all diligence of mind.  I have accepted that it must come on the Lord's time table and in His own way.  I had hoped that my burdens might be lightened in the interim; but they only seem to get heavier.  So I beat myself up for having something less that full purpose of heart, something less than all diligence of mind.  Having lost my mind, its a wonder I can apply any diligence at all.

I went back and reviewed my service of the past several months.  I also examined my faithfulness and examples of my application of trust.  Both seemed to fall into the Second Mile category.  So why am I still sinking deeper into this pit of bondage and despair?

With no small measure of gnashed teeth and clenched fists, I seethed, "If I could sweat all the sweat, and cry all the tears, and bleed all the blood in the world, it still wouldn't be good enough, would it!"

To which the Spirit quietly replied, "That's right."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Movie Review - Lark Rise To Candleford

I've watched a lot of television my 61 years, and never have I enjoyed a program so much as BBC's Lark Rise To Candleford.  Adapted from Flora Thompson's trilogy by the same name, (which I am currently reading by the way) the series, in four seasons, depicts rural life in a village and neighboring hamlet of Oxfordshire, England of the late 19th Century.

This program demonstrates the obvious advantage of series television, for the development and history of each character can hardly be so well addressed in any shorter form of video entertainment.  Each character is rich in purpose, meaning, individuality and charm, and I loved them, every one.

The stories were heart warming, inspirational, credible and informative.  It was indeed a different time and place.  One which we would all do well to experience and appreciate.  Even in the late 1800's change was causing difficult problems and while different than the troublesome changes we are experiencing, much might be gained if we were to consider them from Candleford's distant perspective.

We all have wonderful roots in the working classes of our past.  It has done my heart good to gain a greater appreciation for what it is they did, that we might so easily ride upon their shoulders.  But, lest you think this a dreary proposition, don't be dissuaded, the charm, good cheer, courage and wisdom of these workers of the land are truly inspirational and often downright hilarious.

The casting was superb.  I cannot imagine a single character better cast by someone else.  The stories, festivals, culture and times literally came alive in every episode.

We got them through Netflix and felt it was a bargain.  We are hoping the kids might get together and give us the series to own, perhaps for Christmas.  We expect to watch it again and again!

Five enthusiastic Stars

The Interloper - Chapter One

There he is again, creeping through my subconscious.  Shadowy, filmy, lying opposite me in my bed.  Why is it he instead of Sweetie?  I reach, but he is gone.  I get up to find her at the computer, weary, but wide awake.  I wander back to bed to find it empty.  I crawl in and slip away from awareness.  Later, turning, I sense warmth beside me.  Startled, I strain to see in the ambient light, and relax; it is she, not he.  I close my eyes and it seems I see better than before.  There in the semi-darkness I see his shadow slip down the hall, or do I?.  Up, I search the house.  Nothing is amiss.  I have to pee and waking, I climb out of bed with a feeling of dread.  I can't go back to sleep so I read in hopes drowsiness will return before dawn.

I fall asleep in the recliner, covered, cozy.  Later, my back stiff, I move to my bed and find him lying beside her.  I reach for the bat I keep behind the bedroom door but turning back he is gone.  It has happened so many times before, I shake it off and climb beneath the covers and warm my cold feet near her warm ones.  Arising, I find the dishes done and suppose Sweetie has done them in the night.  

The church bells are ringing, it is seven o'clock, better get up.  I am surprised to find myself in the recliner, though I remember coming down to read.  My heart is sick and my muscles ache.  I walk to the kitchen.  Somehow, I am surprised the dishes need washing.  Something's not right?  Of course they're not done, we left them that way when we went to bed.  I wish I could go back to bed.


I've had this recurring dream.  Not quite a nightmare, but very nearly.  For years, I only remembered having had it previously, while dreaming it again.  I would awaken disturbed and out of sorts, but with no conscious recollection of what had strummed the discordant string I felt still vibrating in my soul.  I only know it reoccurred over time because when I finally awoke amid the dream, I knew what was going to transpire next; and it did.

Over time I have learned to observe my dreams from a vantage point near consciousness, but shy of wakefulness.  I don't know what to call this state.  It is rather like watching a movie.  I can observe the dream and be an outside observer of the action and still remain in the darkened theater of sleep.  I don't always get this privilege, but it happens often in my Interloper dream.

Sometimes I can even observe things in the wakeful world without waking myself.  In the case of the Interloper, this ability only enhances the agony and wonder of it.


I've named the Interloper.  I call him Echo.  Echo, because it's as if I never really see him, just the echo of him.  I know echo refers to sound, but in my dream he is an echo of light.  Its as though he's vanished just before I see him, but the vision is still somehow bouncing off the walls.  Sometimes it is not the walls; but the faces of loved ones.  It's as if there is a flash of delight in their eyes, that suddenly disappears at seeing me.  I can't tell if I really saw it, or just hoped I did.  Somehow, I sense a flicker of shock in them, like sucking a straw expecting soda and getting water.  Shock, and disappointment.  In my dream, it seems Echo precedes me everywhere I go.  And disappointment follows.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book Review - The Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life by Glenn Beck and Keith Ablow, MD

I have not been a huge Glenn Beck fan.  I don't watch much broadcast TV and so I haven't watched his show ever.  I've seen a few clips on YouTube and liked them.  The consequence is that I'd never heard of this book.

A couple of weeks ago Sweetie's cousin, Duane came for a visit.  He was carrying the book and shared a metaphor from it with me.  Something about following bread crumbs.  The bread crumbs notion really struck me and seemed to be an answer to my most current prayers and gave me insight into my most current frustrations.

Essentially, the book is about change.  Beck tells the story of his recovery from alcoholism and consequently, his meteoric rise to fame, fortune and remarkably settled happiness.  He tells it in a most insightful and candid way.  Interspersed with that story lie chapters by Dr. Ablow, who gives wonderful insight into what has and is transpiring in Beck's recovery story.

Glenn Beck and I both have experienced recovery through the 12 Step Model.  The book is full of clear hints of AA's influence.  What I have recently struggled with is that, for me, the 12 Steps have been helpful in accomplishing what I don't want to be, I just couldn't get past that to what I do want to be, beyond sober.

For that, for my quest toward a healthy, happy, productive future, The Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life has hit the nail right on the head!  Years of addiction have kept me from my potential in real and painful ways.  I have not fully discovered who I am and what I am meant to accomplish in this life.  When I express this concern, my friends and family tend to play it down with lists of my accomplishments, trying to cheer me by reminding me of this or that good in my past.  While their intentions are great and appreciated, they haven't been much help.  I am 61 years old, and still often complain that I haven't got a clue as to what I want to be when I grow up.  I have always lived my life by default; by dealing as best I could with the things that happened to me.  Lehi says I was meant to act and not to be acted upon.  This book is teaching me how to act!

Years and years of inappropriately dealt with baggage have caused me to give up on so many hopes and dreams that I have quit hoping and dreaming.  All of my efforts were too intensely focused on doing battle with my addictive behavior that there was little energy for anything else.  As addictive behaviors are only symptoms of deeper causes and conditions, I was expending all my energies addressing the wrong problems. The 12 Steps were magnificent at helping me discover, deal with and surrender the real problems, the baggage, if you will.  But, where do I go from here?  How do I get back my possibilities?  How, at this age, do I move forward toward my full potential?  How to I learn again to hope?  To dream?  These questions are all answered, so powerfully, in this wonderful book!

In AA it is often said, "When the student is ready, the teacher will come."  I was ready.  So ready.  And sure enough, along came Duane, Glenn Beck and Dr. Ablow, right on time, with just the right answers.  Not just them either.  On the day I walked into the book store to find this gem I noticed a framed quotation hanging on the wall.  It was from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and said, "God is anxiously waiting to answer your prayers and to fulfill your dreams, but He can't if you don't pray and He can't if you don't dream."  I bought it and am looking at it now, hanging on the wall of my study.  I can hardly express what joy I have in having dreams again.

I have spent my life trying to appear to be authentic.  It was all a lie.  I did what I thought people would like me to do.  I said, what I thought they wanted to hear.  It was all a lie.  This great little book is helping me past that, helping me find my own truth.  Helping me to discover and live a congruent and authentic life.  It is telling me how to find that truth, not between it's covers, but deep within my own heart and soul.

Five Stars

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Guest Post - From Duane's Journal - Healing the Wounded Soul

  Following are some notes I took from a talk given to me by Myke Weber while I was out visiting he and Booklogged. There is much insight in these notes and I pray the Lord will cause these insights to sink deep into the marrow of my bones, as it were.  Or, into the fibers of my spirit.  May He bless me that the Holy Ghost will be more active in my life so that I may remember, and have brought to my memory these things.  The CD was copyrighted in 2006. Here are the notes:

Healing the Wounded Soul
by Jack R. Christianson

    The speaker starts out by stating his intent in giving this talk.  It is found in 1Ne. 6:4: “For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob and be saved.”  This is also the intent of the Book of Mormon.  However, we as Spiritual Beings having a mortal experience all deal with heartache, tragedy, we are downtrodden and we all acquire wounds to the heart.  But we have a Savior and a Heavenly Father who are dedicated to “bring to pass the immortality and Eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39) and they have given us instructions as to how to avoid many of the vicissitudes of this life.  “And now, my son s, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Hel. 5:12).
    We all experience the hail and the storm and the wind in this mortal realm.  It cannot be avoided.  These are the things that help us, and sometimes force us, to dwell on how to do things better, how to have an easier life.  But the answer is in the same verse, if you are built on the foundation of Christ, you will still have trials; but those trials shall not drag you down into endless wo (torment, depression, etc) or the gulf of endless misery.  You shall be delivered from these things if you are built on the foundation of Christ.
    How do we build that foundation under us?  He have to come to know Christ; not only know Him but to communicate with Him and receive answers to current challenges.  We do have prophets in the church; but we all have the right to individual revelation and answers to our current situations.
    The speaker then shares with us an insight that was very powerful in his life.  To set the scene for the scripture, Moroni had just appeared to Joseph Smith in his bedroom.  After the revelation closed, the boy Joseph says, “I lay musing on the singularity of the scene, and marveling greatly at what had been told to me... when in the midst of my meditation, I suddenly discovered... (JS-Hist. 1:44)
    Musing is defined as “absorbed in thought; meditative.”  It is much like pondering – the word used in Moroni 10:3-4; the promise of the Book of Mormon.  Pondering is defined in the dictionary as “to consider something deeply and thoroughly; meditate.”  So, Joseph Smith was mediating, pondering, thinking deeply, going over the revelation thoroughly when he “suddenly discovered.”
    Now what the Boy Prophet discovered was the light re-appearing in his room.  But let’s look at the phrase a little differently, shall we?
    As we go through our lives and we are faced with how to proceed, or maybe a question of the right or wrong of a course of action.  Or, maybe we have found ourselves in a position in life where making the wrong decision could be catastrophic or harmful.  In other words, we really need the right answer.  As we take our problem or question to the Lord, we should meditate upon the subject matter.  As we think deeply, consider thoroughly, ponder and do our musing, we can “suddenly discover” the answer we were seeking.  We can get answers to current questions about our current life challenges.
    But, in today’s world we face tremendous challenges when it comes to receiving revelation.  We are being taught by the world – and it is not a coincidence – that we just don’t have time for pondering, meditating, or being still.  We are caught up in the noise and hustle of everyday life and we just can’t seem to find the time.  Yet, the Lord keeps knocking at our doors asking us to take time for Him.  The real sad thing is that as many of us use our Ipods, talking on the phone, playing games or any myriad of other things so that we do not hear the Lord knocking.
    With knowing that all this would be facing us, the Lord spoke in D&C 101:16, “Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.”  Notice that it says to “be still” to “know that I am God.”  What happens of we aren’t still?
    Elder Boyd K. Packer gave an address at the graduation of BYU Hawaii.  He said, “These are sobering times.  You are going out into a different world than when I was nineteen.”  Pres. Packer continued, “You won’t survive spiritually unless you know how to receive revelation.”  He followed these quotes with how Elijah of the old testament did not receive revelation in the thunder, the lightning, or the wind.  Elijah received revelation “in the still small voice.”  But the thing we often miss is that Elijah was also telling us is that the wind, the thunder, the lightning were all too loud for hearing the still small voice.  We all need to take time out of our lives to find the quiet; because what are we going to miss if we do not find the quiet?
    Elder Packer continued by saying that in our lives today we are never quiet; we are always moving.  He followed that by stating that Revelation comes in the quiet time.  Elder Packer mentions the quiet of the morning before your brain is caught up with the things of the world.  From personal experience and other statements by Men of God, I know sometimes that quiet time needs to be so quiet and separate from the world and it’s cares that you feel like you could almost leave this world and come nearer to God.  Sometimes the voice is that still and that quiet.  If you are not listening that intently, you might not hear the voice.
    The speaker then makes an extraordinary observation.  He says, “Most misbehavior come from being wounded.”  We have found that the statement, “Unfulfilled expectations bring negative results” is true.  When you place your father’s persona onto God the expectations are not fulfilled.  A wound is opened and the wound is made worse in the memory because of all the pain and insecurity associated with it.  I know that usually the wound, the pain, the humiliation all go together; but they can happen by themselves and over time combine to cause deep and lasting wounds in the heart and Spirit of the children of God.  It is the nature of this type of wound that it must be healed from the inside out.  This particular type of healing takes time; so, you must be patient as the wound heals.
    That is why the speaker as a Stake President stopped asking people to buck up and change and started to ask things like, “What is it that has caused such deep wounds, pain and anguish that you would act out like this?”  “What is missing from your life?’  “What needs do you have that are not being met?”  It follows the point that Glenn Beck makes in his book “The Seven” when he asks you to look at someone who has wounded you and ask, “What happened in this person’s life to cause them to be like this?”  I found a huge compassion when I asked what had happened in my own father’s life that had split his personality into seven different persons;  one of which beat me up physically, mentally, and spiritually.  This is the compassion that can come when we look not at the misbehavior but at the causes beneath the behavior.  Once we are healed, we can act from the higher platform of our being healed; from the higher platform of our greater understanding of what the wounded need.
    How are these wounds healed?  Let’s look at Jacob 2:7-8.  Here Jacob is calling the men of the church to repentance for the way they have been treating their wives and children.  “And also it grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech concerning you, before your wives and your children many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God’ (v7).  So, here Jacob is saying that the Lord desires women and children to have feelings that are tender, chaste and delicate.  Women and children are supposed to be this way, as God intended.  What have we done as a society to both our women and children?  But Jacob goes on, “And it supposeth me that they (women and children) have come up hither to hear the pleasing word of God, yea the word which healeth the wounded soul.”
    It is the “pleasing word of God” that “healeth the wounded soul!”  There is the answer.  But, I ask a question.  Is it enough to read or listen to the word of God to heal spiritual wounds?  To me that sounds too easy; and I believe Eternal Life is not easy to come by.  The Greatest Gift of God is not a free gift.  The scriptures tell us that we must overcome our carnal, sensual and natural (devilish) selves and become like God to receive that high gift.  So what is the answer?  How do we get the word of God deeply into the people?  What about immersing ourselves in the pleasing word of God?  Devoting our lives to being truth seekers and seeking the truth until we find it.  Turning over every stone on the beach until we find the treasure.  Turning our whole souls over to scripture study just like the Lord expects us to eventually turn our very lives over to Him?
    The speaker then revealed something to me that was awesome.  He said that Jacob, the brother of Nephi was an abused child and my whole mental picture of Lehi’s family changed.  Here we go: “And now, Jacob, I speak unto you: Thou art my first-born in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness.  And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren” (2Ne 2:1).  Rudeness means, harsh, crude, course, or vulgar.  Being harsh, crude, course and vulgar causes wounds in the delicate natures of the children of God.
    Do you remember when Sam and Nephi came back without the plates the first time they tried to get them?  Laman and Lemuel beat Nephi so badly that an angel had to come break it up.  And when they were on the ship crossing the ocean, these eldest brothers tied Nephi to the mast of the ship and beat him.  This is harsh activity, this is a course life, this is a vulgar way to treat another human being, let alone a member of your family.
    Lehi’s family was not your typical family; it was an abusive family.  There were wounds in young Jacob’s soul.  But Lehi, in leaving his blessing upon this wounded child said this, “Nevertheless, Jacob, my first-born in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain” (2Ne 2:2).  Lehi went further and taught his wounded son that “redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth” (v6).
    Jacob, who learns to get real close to God (see 2Ne 2:4), lives to become the Prophet to the Lord’s people after his brother Nephi dies.  And what does he teach his people?  Although Jacob is very strong in opposition to sin, he teaches his people that it is the word of God that heals; it is the atonement of Christ and the blessings of grace which save men souls.  He teaches that tenderness, chastity, and delicate natures are desired by God in his people.  He teaches these things because he has lived them.
    In a meeting with President Faust that the speaker attended, the meeting was opened for questions.  The question was asked, “what are we going to do to overcome all the addictions we face in the world?”  Do you remember the statement by Elder Boyd K. Packer about behavior?  He said, “True doctrine understood changes attitudes and behavior quicker than the study of behavior.”  The study of behavior changes behavior; but that and true doctrine does it faster!  President Faust adopted a comfortable position with his mouth close to the microphone and said, “Get them to hold faster and tighter to the Iron Rod.  Next question?”
    At this point the speaker made if very clear that he was not saying that medicines were not necessary to correct chemical imbalances and so forth.  He reminded us that Elder Ashton said that faith and medicine work like the two halves of scissors to do delicate work.
    Again, the pleasing word of God heals the wounded soul.  But, we have to get that word in you and not just on you.  The word of God will heal and change you.  There is a healing agent in the scriptures that is like no other.  But, again it is not just reading the scriptures, it is getting the truth and insights found in the scriptures inside of you, so that you become changed from carnal, sensual and devilish to a Child of God.
    The Lord in D&C 84:57 says, “And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments (Bible) which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written.”  From this statement I get that our scripture study should at least be concentrated enough to cause us not only to talk about the truth but to do, or live, the truth.  It is this kind of concentration that heals.  And when the healing takes place that which is holding the person back from obedience is removed.  If we can just get the wounded healed they will want to serve the King.
    Elder Faust said to get them to hold faster and tighter to the iron rod.  Nephi’s brothers asked him what the iron rod was and Nephi’s answer contains some pretty awesome promises.  “And they said unto me: what meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw that led to the tree?  And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction” (1Ne 51:23-24).  To hearken means to employ it; to use it.  And if we hold fast to the word of God we will not perish.  What a great promise.  And also we, by concentrating on the scriptures cannot, never mind being led away to destruction; but way before that we will not be blinded by the fiery darts of temptation.  That is a huge limitation on the power of our common enemy.
    Not only these great promises but we can lead and teach out of our own healed and changed hearts.  Remember, President Lee told us that we would never help another unless we re on higher ground than they.  We love, we nourish, we support and we are patient while the Lord heals the wounded soul from the inside out.
    President Hinkley asked the church to read the Book of Mormon in the coming year, while he was President of the Church.  In so doing he promised three things would happen in the lives of those who took up the challenge.  1) You would feel an additional measure of the Spirit of the Lord.  2) You would feel a stronger commitment to obey the commandments.  3) You would gain a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.  A little research showed that Elder Hinkley had made that exact promise in the exact words twice before becoming President of the Church.  Do you think the brethren want us to get into the Book of Mormon?  I am sure that one of the reasons the Prophets want us in the Book of Mormon is so the people of the Church can be healed: gaining a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God means you are coming to know the Healer.  What are we waiting for?
    Elder Russell M. Nelson has said, “Each individual who prayerfully studies the Book of Mormon can also receive a testimony of the divinity of the book.  In addition the book can help with personal problems in a very real way.  Do you want to get rid of a bad habit?  Do you want to improve relationships in your family?  Do you want to increase your spiritual capacity?  Read the Book of Mormon!  It will bring you closer to the Lord and His loving power...  He who helped the blind to see and the lame to walk can also bless you.  He has promised that those who live by the precepts of this book shall receive a Crown of Eternal Life.”
    The Book of Mormon is to teach us about the Great Healer.  What happens to the blind, the lame, the wounded, the weary, the downtrodden when they come in contact with the Creator of all things?  They are healed!  Why the Book of Mormon?  Because it can heal us no matter what our wounds.  Again, what are we waiting for before we jump in with both feet?  If you want to be healed of not being treated well, let the word of God get into you.
    It is often the case that we try to get others to comply with the truth we have found.  That is not our role or responsibility.  We cannot change others.  We can’t get them to read the Book of Mormon.  But we can love them, we can be tender, we can be delicate, and we can be chaste in our dealings with them.  In our relationships with others, especially our family, it doesn’t matter who is right.  What matters is what will bring the sweetness of the Spirit into our homes so that we don’t create wounds in the hearts of others, especially our children.  Fighting wounds children, always. We can and must not cause further wounds.  We can be examples of what God would want us to be.
    We come to know Him.  We separate ourselves out and we spend quiet time.  And in our quiet meditation and our pondering over the Word of God wounds are healed, ideas given, and solutions are found.
    Joseph Smith said, “If you do your duty, it will be just as well with you as if all men accept the gospel” (History of the Church, vol 1, pg 468).  Do your duty.  Live the gospel.  Love out of your own healed heart and it will be as though all men accepted the gospel; we won’t lose them.  On this same subject Joseph Smith said on another occasion, “All your loses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you live faithful.”  And then he adds this awesome declaration: “By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg 296).  I may not understand all that these statements entail; but I do understand enough to know that doing my duty and living faithfully is a small price to pay for all that is promised.
    D&C 50:7 seems to add more to the statements by Joseph Smith.  “Behold, verily I say unto you, there are hypocrites among you, who have deceived some, which has given the adversary power; but behold such shall be reclaimed.”  So, if one’s wounds, insecurity, or failings come because of the deceit of hypocrites, that person will be recovered.  To me that means that the truth will be made known to you and you are held guiltless for anything you did because you were deceived.  This is the mercy of Christ which allows all to be punished for their own sins and not the sins of others.
    This love of the Savior is everywhere demonstrated.  In 3Ne 17:5, the gathered multitude gazes upon the Savior with tears in their eyes and the steadfastness of their gaze let the Lord know that they wished He would stay.  He told them so and said his bowels were filled with compassion towards them.  He asked if there were any sick among them.  He wanted to heal them.  And the multitude went forth with their sick and He did heal them “that were afflicted in any manner” (v9).  And then He prayed to The Father for them; and so great were the things that He prayed that they could not be written.  He is the Great Healer.  He wants to heal us if we will only come to Him.
    He is our advocate with the Father.  He pleads our case before our Heavenly Father.  “And I give unto you, who are the first laborers in this last kingdom, a commandment that you assemble yourselves together, and organize yourselves, and prepare yourselves, and sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean; that I may testify unto your Father and your God, and my God, that you are clean from the blood of this wicked generation; that I may fulfil this promise, this great and last promise, which I have made unto you, when I will” (D&C 88 74-75).
    Our duty, our level of concentration when learning of Him is laid out in these previous verses.  A pattern of behavior is laid out prior to Him making us clean.  This has significance for me because of my vision where the Lord tells me, “Duane, I have Power to Make You Clean.”  All of this is the doing of the word of God.  It is employing the word of God in our daily lives.  It is letting His word sink deep into the elements that make up our soul; and the soul is the body and the spirit.
    The speaker ended with an invitation; even an invitation from God.  It comes after the great destruction upon all the land in the Book of Mormon that occurred at the death of Jesus Christ, yet prior to his appearance to the people here in the western hemisphere.  The Lord rehearses unto those who were not destroyed by the destruction all the cities and souls that are gone.  He explains to the people who can hear His voice that it is because of wickedness and sin that the destruction and death has taken place.  Then the Healer invites His hearers to come unto Him, “O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” (3Ne 9:13) Will you be healed?  Will you have the things that are holding you back removed?  Then study the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, like your life depends upon it; because your Eternal Life does depend on it.  (End of Notes)
    The purpose of this life is to come to know Jesus Christ, Him Crucified and why and for whom He was crucified.  You cannot learn about such things without revelation.  I define revelation as God speaking directly to you.  I have a knowledge that Heavenly Father set this life up so that we, each, individually, are responsible for our own lives.  We will be judged for our own sins and not anyone else’s.  We will also be blessed for our individual efforts to do, employ, use and obey the word of God.
    This life is a busy and noisy one; and a child of God seeking the truth, seeking to become like God, seeking to know Jesus Christ and Him Crucified needs to find quiet time.  Sleep less, get out of the city, go to the city park and block out the noise of the city.  Shut your windows and doors; do anything to find quiet.  And when the quiet is found do not let it go to waste; do not lose a millisecond.  Ponder, meditate, do your musing to that you can “suddenly discover” the right answer: the answer from the Lord.
    What a wonderful world it would be if we all could learn to do that.  The world would be so very different from the way it is now, if we do what we have to do to find the quiet time to commune with the Divine.
    This talk by Brother Christianson made a big impression on me.  I am one of the wounded.  I guess you could say I have been treated harshly, with much rudeness, a coarse vulgarity ran through my childhood.  Because of that example in my life, I have followed, for much of my own life, the same path. I exhibit some of these same traits.  There is something that is holding me back from being my best person, as Glenn Beck would put it.
    As I have read the Ablow and Beck book, a question of how to dig up those things holding me back has bothered me.  Brother Christianson’s talk tells me that if I would have these wounds healed I must immerse myself in the “pleasing word of God.”  As I do so, the Lord will heal those wounds.  But, in some way, during the healing process, those things that are holding me back will be removed through the atonement of Jesus Christ and I will be made whole.  It is my prayer that I will return to that chaste, tender, and delicate person the Lord would have me be so that I do not cause wounds in any of His other children.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Review - Door To December by Dean Koontz

I really believe this is my favorite Koontz novel of all time.  That's hard to say because I probably said the same thing about the Frankenstein Series as well as the Odd Thomas series.

Still, this one really captured my attention from the first page and never let up until the last.

The interesting thing is, this novel was written by Koontz, and first published in 1985 under the pen name of Richard Paige.  It was the only Paige offering ever published.  Koontz has a little commentary at the end of the book explaining the practice and use of pen names, which was both informative and amusing.  Considering the passage of time and a much less mature author than today's Dean Koontz, it is quite remarkable that I liked it so much.

That said, I think if I had read it thinking Richard Paige wrote it; I feel quite certain that I'd have attributed it to Koontz before the 100th page.  It is so characteristically his; yet so very unique.  As always I loved his descriptive prose and the breezy, humorous, light, bright conversations between very interesting characters.

I'm not going to spoil a thing by telling you any about the story.  Just accept that this, like every Koontz novel, is thrilling, imaginative, almost credible and hugely entertaining.  How can an author take his readers to such dark places and leave them so enlightened in the end?  I think he answers that question nicely in the addendum commentary as well.

Five Stars

Monday, August 8, 2011


Note:  In recognition of the recent passing of Sister Cheiko Okazaki, and as an expression of gratitude for the deep impression she made upon my life; may I re-post from Commend Yourself to God an article I wrote referring to a great lesson she once taught me.  Thank you dear Sister for your heart-felt and God-inspired gifts to each of us. 

The wounds of manipulation destroy trust.  Lack of trust is why people don’t change.  Broken trust is a scalding, instant pain much like touching a hot stove.  We are reticent to ever feel it again and so we carefully guard against it.  No one likes the pain of disappointment that comes of broken promises and violated trust. We are quick to put up walls and barriers.  We put on oven mitts before coming near the danger again.  We shore up our defenses or cower down in our hidey holes and refuse to come out until we’re certain the coast is clear.  Is it any wonder we are so hard to reach? How are we to distinguish the trustworthy from those who’ll selfishly hurt us again?  No one wants to be vulnerable when the cost of a mistake can hurt so badly.  To attempt a change in our lives is to come out of our fortifications into that scary world.  It is hard to let ourselves become that vulnerable again.
While serving at the Detention Center, I had a remarkable compatriot.  His name is Darwin.  The youth just loved him.  More than a year after his being called elsewhere, the kids still inquire after him.  The thing that made Darwin so special was that he was vulnerable.  He hid nothing from them, including his tears.  It is a hard and vulnerable thing to weep in front of others.  Some will not understand.  Some with judge and tease and say hurtful things. Darwin has felt the sting of such unkindness many times, but he refuses to withdraw to a King’s X were he’ll be safe from that. Why?  Because Darwin knows that in order to draw wounded people out of the turtle shell of safety they’ve grown around themselves they have to trust.  Darwin also knows that trust begets trust.  He trusts the kids to keep his confidences.  He trusts them to not make fun of his weakness.  He takes a huge risk.  But, he thinks it’s worth it, because they sense that if Darwin feels safe out there, maybe they might be too.  They test the waters in Darwin’s presence and nothing happens, so out they come and bask in the sunshine a while.  When he’s not there, they usually draw back into their shells, but they risk it when he’s around because they know that even if they get stung, it will also sting Darwin and they’ll deal with it together.
I think that one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children is to be willing to be vulnerable in their presence.  My own dear Father had a difficult time being vulnerable.  He was a very capable accomplished man.  He appeared to me to be perfect so I could, in no way relate to him.  He, like most parents was also a manipulator and was the cause of much of my pain.  I never dared cry in his presence except when he took a belt to my backside.  In that case the wails and tears were indicative that he’d done his job.  I realize now that the society he lived in had manipulated him into conformity and that breaking out of that mold was just as difficult for him as it is for me. 
Long after my father had passed away, I had a sacred moment with him which is too special to describe here.  Let me just say that he came to me and showed me his weakness in a very vulnerable way. My discovery of his humility, humanity and willingness to expose his weakness to me, was quite possibly the most cathartic experience of my life.  How wonderful that the Lord, in his mercy, saw me holed up in my shell and chose to allow my father to be the one to come and draw me out.  I can only imagine how healing it was for Dad as well.
Once my father was able to show me a different pattern of parenthood, I began to be willing to trust my Father in Heaven as well.  I love a little story told by Cheiko Okazaki in her book Lighten Up!  There she describes a hypothetical situation in which Jesus might show up at your door for a visit.  He is welcome in the tidy part of the house but, in this story, kept from the kitchen where things aren’t just right.
I just went back and reread that chapter in the book.  It is not at all like I remember it.  It seems, that I have subconsciously, rewritten the story to more accurately reflect my own weakness and circumstance.  It rather amused me to discover how I had embellished her sweet simple story with details of my own.  Here’s how the story goes in my mind’s version:
I get a card in the mail indicating that Jesus would like to come visit me on the following afternoon.  I realize that I’ll be hard pressed to make all the preparations.  The note says he’ll arrive at 4:30 PM, so I assume he’ll want to stay for supper.  I look at my calendar and see that my evening is booked at the Detention Center and that my morning has something too.  I think I can get to the store on the way back from that morning engagement and will probably have time to clean up the messy kitchen and fix a meal in the remaining time.  I go about my life at little harried, a little worried.
My morning meeting goes long.  The lines are long at the grocery store.  As I come in the driveway a neighbor flags me down with an emergency across the street that requires my attention.  I make it into the house two hours late and some of the food has spoiled in the hot car.  I’ll have to go to plan B as I can’t fix spoiled food for the Savior.  I’m just rolling up my sleeves to tackle three days of neglected dishes when the door bell rings.  I rush to answer it and find to my horrified dismay that He has arrived early!
Flustered I escort Him to the Home Teaching Room, move the morning paper off the best chair and invite Him to sit.  I make a few apologies, mingled with excuses and ask if he’d like some refreshment?  I explain that I’ll be leaving Him there while I go tidy up a bit and get dinner on, whereupon, according to Dixon’s version, I hand Him a Bible to read while he waits.
Oh boy, now I have to stop and interject some explanation about Dixon.  Dixon is a Native American fellow who has spent the past two years as my companion at the Detention Center.  He was seriously injured in a drunk-driving accident years ago.  He spent eight months in a coma and now has some disability.  His left side is partially paralyzed and his speech is difficult to understand.  He’s especially limited in speaking long sentences and gets completely muddled with paragraphs.  The result is that he’s become a master of the one liner.
Dixon has a deep understanding of the gospel.  He has a grateful, happy outlook on life.  Add to that a superior sense of humor and a flawless sense of timing and you get, well, the best teaching companion.  My lessons became drum rolls punctuated by Dixon’s rim shots.
Such was the case when, telling the above story to the kids in DT, I came to that part where I was awkwardly seating the Savior of the World in my drawing room and attempting to see to his needs.  I was just saying how I was about to leave him there with a magazine when Dixon interjected, “ Bible!”
See what I mean?  With one word, Dixon summarized my whole message.  We laughed and laughed at the stupidity of thinking that we in any way could presume to meets Jesus’ needs, especially with something He’d given to meet ours!
Now, back to the story:  As I’m about to leave, Jesus asks if He might come into the kitchen and help!  “Oh, of course not!” I protest.  “I could never let you see my messy kitchen!”
He kindly explains that He’d rather help and that He’s good at it.  Still I protest, but He patiently persists.  Finally, I reluctantly agree.  I’m sure that when He sees the mess there will be recriminations, “This place is a pig sty!  How can you live like this?”
Instead, He quietly, patiently rolls up His sleeves and goes to work beside me.  In the end I imagine a pleasant afternoon of cooking and cleaning and pleasant conversation.
Actually, this story is not all imagination.  In order to recover from my addiction, I had to do exactly what I’ve described. All my life I had left the Lord alone in the tidy parts of my soul.  Never inviting Him in where He might do some good.  It was a difficult day when I swung to doors wide and meekly invited Him in to see the messy parts.  They were far worse than a few days’ undone dishes.  My “kitchen” was a filthy, stinking can of worms.  Still, there was no condemnation just an invitation to join Him in cleaning up the mess.  He is very good at what He does.
That kind of trust, that kind of vulnerability is not easy to come by. I think it is what the scriptures call being circumcised of heart; the willingness to become utterly vulnerable in order to become clean and enter the covenant.
Most of us consider confessing to be repentance.  In this story, I confess to the Savior that I have a messy kitchen, but that is of not use to me or Him.  It is only when I let Him far enough in to actually help with the clean up, that I am cleansed, comforted and forgiven.
So, if we are afraid and walled in, how do we get the courage to step out into the light and take the risk of trusting again?  I don’t know if there is a magic formula.  Some go there because they are smothering in their fortress and are driven out for air.  Others get exposed for who they really are and once exposed decide to face their humiliation and do something about it.  Others, finding someone they can truly trust, with whom their confidence has grown over time, may trust their confidant and accept an invitation to emerge from their prison/shelter.  Remember, manipulation has driven them there; manipulation will not bring them back.  No selfish effort on my part is going to initiate trust and vulnerability on the part of another.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Book Review - What The Night Knows by Dean Koontz

Again, Koontz masterfully contrasts light and darkness.  It is amazing, the awful realms he can show us; thus enhancing the absolute brilliance of the light.  As always, his work is abundant with amusing conversations, wonderful descriptions and delightful characters.

This is a fascinating story as well.  A police detective, John Calvino, is a survivor of a horrible series of murders that included his entire family.  Now they're beginning again and he must stop the perpetrator before he loses his wife and children, like he had is parents and siblings.

These past few years Koontz seems to be bent on understanding his religious experience.  He seems to be a believer, has wonderful insights into human nature and seems at a loss to explain the miracles that seem to pervade our lives.  While his conclusions in this case are interesting, even compelling, they are far from satisfying and satisfactory.  Too bad he doesn't have a deeper understanding of The Plan of Salvation.

Still, he does get some things in spades.  This, for example:
"She knew terrible things happened to the best of people, to people far better than she would ever be, even people as good and innocent as Minette.  But she also knew that the power of the imagination could shape reality   Every day she made real on canvas the scenes that would be otherwise confined forever to her mind; therefore it seemed a half step in logic to believe that the imagination might directly influence reality."
I like that.  It speaks of reality being created first, spiritually.  Sometimes, though, imagination gets tangled up in worry and confusion.  Here is Koontz's beautifully descriptive expression of that notion:
"Naomi found herself for once in a situation where her galloping imagination seemed tethered, pawing at the ground with its hooves, stirring up nothing but dust."
Having previously described the church as having evolved into an institution of social connection and social activism and service, Koontz makes this telling observation:
"They (the church) were embarrassed by the old-fashioned idea of absolute Evil, of Evil personified, but the answer to this wasn't a food bank, he would not save his family and himself by throwing food at this thing, not by giving it a cot in a homeless shelter, not by social action, what he need here was some really effective antisocial action ... a miracle..."
I liked the idea that in our world of uncertainties, of ineffective, even crooked politicians, of crime, of calamity; sometimes all we can do is quit trusting in "the arm of the flesh" and call upon God to put forth His mighty hand and intervene.  A rather old fashioned notion, to be sure, at least by popular standards; but a very real and effective one.

I never come away disappointed with a Dean Koontz novel.  I'll be sad to remove the Book Darts and return this one to the library.  I'd rather own it.

Five Stars

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?  ....as 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.
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