Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review - Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

I liked The Life of Pi, I really did. I learned a great deal from it.  The last bit was a bit disconcerting, but I liked it, all.

I loved Beatrice and Virgil.  This is perhaps one of the more profound books I've ever read about the...

I'd better not tell you that much.  It would make it much less fun to read, much less poignant at the end.  It is interesting that I have heard or read very little commentary on Beatrice and Virgil, while having heard and read much about the Life of Pi.  To my thinking it should be the other way round.  I can really tell you very little about the former and doubt I will ever forget the latter.

Here's a favorite quote from the book:  "Words are cold muddy toads trying to understand sprites dancing in a field."
Having said that, Martel then proceeds to use those muddy toads to try and understand.  His goal?  To figure out, "How are we going to talk about what happened to us...?"

I think he figured it out quite perfectly....sort of.

Monday, March 7, 2011

My Book is Nearly Done

I've been working on my new book Commend Yourself to God - Commentary on the Nature of Change.  It is nearing completion but needs some editing and feedback.  I am publishing it as it currently exists in the form of a blog, to be found at Commend Yourself to God.  As blogs publish backwards with most recent items posted at the top you can read it chronologically by clicking on the individual chapters under the table of contents listed at the right.  If you would like to copy or print it out in it's proper sequence you can also find it at my site on Google Documents.

The book is about manipulation which I define as: influencing or playing upon others, by devious means, to one's own advantage.  Most of us hate to be manipulated.  Most of us are loathe to admit that we ourselves are manipulators.  I think you'll be surprised how many of us manipulate.  Moreover, I think you'll be shocked at the damage manipulation is causing in our families, and in the church, community and nation.  It is time to make ourselves aware of this primary tool of the evil one and divorce ourselves from it's insidious use.

This book is not written to give victims of manipulation an excuse, nor ammo for retaliation.  It is not written to condemn those who have manipulated us.  It is written to make us aware of its effects in our lives and to teach us how to refrain from letting manipulation destroy us as well as how to discontinue the oppression of others by manipulative means.

I hope you will find it enlightening, occasionally entertaining, motivating and inspirational.  We manipulate because we'd like to see change in ourselves and others.  There is a better way to bring about change which you will discover as you study the examples set forth in this work. As you read you'll learn better what it is to change and how that is appropriately and effectively brought about.  Enjoy!

I Want To Fly!

I awoke this morning exhausted.  My shoulder muscles felt as if I'd been working all night.  This is not rare with me.  It is as though I have been carrying a burden the entire night.  That image caught hold in my mind and I began to discover the problem.  I am clinging to something. Desperately, earnestly hanging on for dear life, to something I cannot bear to part with.

I've just spent a few hours trying to determine what it might be.  What is this burden that I am so unwilling to release, but which is so doggedly wearing me out?  I can't seem to put my finger on it?  I started my journey of recovery with a backpack full of rocks.  I have unloaded most of them.  I say most because there is obviously more  baggage I have not dealt with.  I'm pleased, at this point, to have a starting place.  I helps to have the realization that I still have a burden that I have not dropped at the Savior's feet.  Knowing that, I think I can go on to discover what it is.

During my days I keep busy.  Mostly serving others.  This makes me happy.  I spend my days relaxed and full of meaningful activity.  What is it about the night time that causes this tension to return.  I described it to Darwin the other day like this:  Every morning I awake in the tree tops of fear and anxiety.  My understanding of the gospel, the atonement and my faith in Jesus Christ allow me to talk myself down from those precarious heights.  There on solid ground I am able to spend my days in peace, gratitude and happiness.  Why is it though, that every dawn finds me desperately clinging to a precarious tree top perch?  What is chasing me to the upper most branches?  What do I fear?

It appears that my subconscious is dealing with something my conscious mind is not aware of.  What can that be?  Consciously, I am quite willing to let go of my own will, surrendering it to God.  Much experience has taught me that such action always results in happiness and contentment.  His will for me is always beneficial, joyful, and positive, even when it pushes me regularly out of my comfort zone.  Yet, somehow, during my sleep, I find myself desperately clinging to some inexplicable something that clearly I would be better off letting go.

My dreams don't bear a clue.  In fact when I am most affected by this state, I don't remember having dreams at all.

I don't think it has anything to do with the winds of adversity that are blowing on me at present.  I consider adversity to be like the breeze that enables a kite to fly.  In this metaphor I am the kite.  The string is woven of trust, faith and obedience.  It is God who holds the string.  It is He that uses adversity to enable me to soar to lofty heights.  Were the string to be severed I would be blown by the wind, out of control, to eventually fall from the sky.  Attached to God by the string He can take me where we wishes.  Unlike mortal flyers of kites, God controls the wind as well.  He ensures that the velocity, turbulence and buffeting of adversity is not more than I can bear.  All of these factors I am experienced with, even comfortable with.  There is another factor however, weight.

I think too often we equate the burdens we carry with the adversity we experience.  They are quite different.  Adversity enables me to soar.  Baggage prevents me from doing so.  If I am a kite and something is holding me down, despite a strong string, expert kite flyer, good sails and energetic opposition, there will be no lively adventures across the sky.  What is the baggage I am so afraid to abandon?

So, this is where I find myself today.  Held down my some weighty burden that makes me and all other aspects of the grand design quite cumbersome.

There are enormous kites out there.   Sails and spars and cables and reels and machinery capable of lifting heavy burdens into the sky on the power of the wind.  I think, inadvertently, I am spending too much time trying to beef up my system so I can lift my burdens, rather than simply, quietly, elegantly releasing them.  What is so precious to me that I'd rather lumber low, straining against a heavy wind.  Wouldn't I rather dance across the sky on a merry breeze?  Don't you suppose that the velocity of our adversity might be commensurate with the volume of weight we are hoping to lift?

I love the scriptural language related to the disposal of burdens.  Words like yield, submit, drop, give, surrender, and release come to mind.  It is interesting that such things require no more effort than simple willingness.  In fact the truth is that burdens only require effort when we are hanging on to them, not when we are giving them up.  So, why would we choose to cling so desperately to our burdens?  What is it we are so afraid might happen if we don't have our precious baggage?

So, looking back over all this, my aches and exhaustion are beginning to make sense.  Now it's just a matter of exploring on paper what it might be that is still burdening me.  For me, the process of written examination results in revelation.  God knows what I've tied to the tail of my kite that keeps me straining to get aloft.  Once He's revealed that to me, He will help me let it go, so I can fly.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Red Flag of Discontent

Lately, I've spent a lot of time praying, imagining, hoping, seeking and anticipating a special blessing from God.  I won't bother you with the details.  I believe that He has promised the blessing.  I am striving to do my part in seeing it come to pass.  I believe that it will come according to His will and good pleasure.  I have even been patient with the process, knowing that He knows best when it comes to the how, where, what and when of it all.

I have failed in one regard however; and yesterday taught me that it was a pretty major goof.  I have focused so intently on the blessing I seek that I have grossly overlooked the blessings I am presently receiving.  I have not defined that distant blessing in any detail.  I am wise enough to leave the details to God, who is far wiser than I.  Because I have not defined means, nor outcomes; I guess I allowed my imagination to wonder as to how it might come to pass.  In doing so, I allowed my heart to wander away from the present moment.  If you've followed this blog for any length of time you'll know that I am a strong advocate of living in the present.  Yet again, I find myself to have been coaxed away from the here and now and consequently from happiness.

I believe that one of Satan's greatest tools is distraction.  He is subtle and devious in his effort to make us miserable.  The interesting thing is that the level of happiness we currently enjoy is the best indicator - barometer, if you will, as to how much success he is having.  In my current case he has taken my quest for a particular blessing and corrupted it into a means to bring about discontent and misery.  There is nothing wrong with the blessing I seek.  As I said, I fully expect the Lord will one day grant it to me.  In the mean time, Satan has taken my desire, corrupted it and used it against me.

Being so intent and focused on this future gift, the devil has helped me overlook the blessings I am currently receiving, in abundance.  Not noticing gifts from God is the most ungrateful and heinous crime I can imagine.  Not only does it offend God; it fosters our own unhappiness.  In the moment that I receive the great gift I seek, I will most assuredly be happy.  But I can be equally happy today if I will just stay here, mentally and emotionally, and enjoy the gifts I am given in the here and now.  I have long contended that the key to happiness is to keep your heart, your head and your butt in the same place at the same time.  It embarrasses me that I must keep reminding myself of this simple truth.

I am so thankful for the red flags that pop up to warn me of the dangerous, treacherous territory I am approaching.  Red flags of self pity, frustration and discontent warn me that I have left the path of happiness.  They alert me to the fact that my heart, and/or my head, are not in the same moment as my body.

Dixon often reminds that, "the past is history, and the future is a mystery, right now is a gift, that's why the call it the present."  He reminded me again last night.  Thank you my friend to helping me refocus on the only place where joy resides.

I trust God.  I really do.  Years of experience have taught me that He is faithful, wise and able.  He knows the future and that must be good enough for me.  He knows how to prepare me for it and it for me.  I must be content with what He gives me today.  It is the only way I can be - content.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wherever He Leads

Last night Arthur was eliminated from the Biggest Loser.  In the process he made a statement that really moved me.  I'll have to paraphrase because I can't find a direct quote.  In essence he said:  I asked God to show me the path and He did.  I will go wherever that path leads.  If it leads me home that's fine with me.

Jillian had a fit with that.  She interpreted it as weakness and capitulation on Arthur's part.  I saw it as surrender to the will of God.  I'm not condemning Jillian.  If you don't believe in God, how can you imagine that submission to Him is anything but weakness.  Too many who do believe in God have a hard time giving up control and trusting that He and His power will lead us to happiness faster and more effectively than taking it will.  Has Arthur given up his freedom?  Of course not.  What he has given up is his pride.  He is basically saying my way doesn't work, I am willing to try it Thy way.

Part of that trust and willingness comes with having the faith that God has our personal best interest in mind and that He is not in the business of removing our obstacles but rather in helping us overcome them.  We are sent here to grow; and resistance, both spiritual, emotional and physical resistance is required to make that happen.  Does Arthur get any credit?  Of course he does.  It is he who is willing to go wherever the path leads.  He can give up and take another path at any time.  Instead he has chosen to take the path God presents, adversity and all and the results are more than apparent.  He's lost an enormous amount of weight and gained so much of confidence and happiness.

In this case surrender simply means:  I give up; my way hasn't worked, I'll try it your way for a change.  Arthur has not said that only to God, but to his trainers.  Even mortals can be our higher power and Bob and Jillian and the others are very adept at being that.  Since they cannot keep Bob and Jillian forever, what a blessing it is that they can keep God...if they are willing.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...