Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Review - Visions of Glory by John Pontius


I guess Pontius couldn't make it in Nuskin or Amway so he preyed upon our culture with another of its gullibilitites - the "faith promoting rumor!"  To me this is the worst kind of trash.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review - The Best of the West by Tony Hillerman

I've love Tony Hillerman's books for a long time and was, at first, disappointed that this one wasn't written by him, just collected by him.  Having read it though, I am NOT disappointed.  In this volume Hillerman has collected some of the best history, stories and lore of the West.  It is truly a delight to read.

You know I like bathroom books - ones that allow for a complete, stand alone, chapter for each sitting.  Well I've modified that.  Now they're my favorite bed time books.  If got to where I don't like sitting on the stool any long than it takes to do my business.  Perhaps due to a song I head recently about Three Old Ladies Stuck in the Lavatory.

I've lived in and read about the West all of my life, but this collection gave me a whole new appreciation for how the West was won.  Sometimes, hilariously!  Sometimes tragically.  Sometimes less than admirably.  Always fascinatingly.

My immediate desire upon completing each story was to get out there and see the place first hand.  I could spend a life-time just chasing down the locales of each fascinating tidbit of Americana.  I know a few Civil War buffs in the East who do just that.  I find this segment of our past to be far more fascinating and much less tragic.

Give this and all of Tony Hillerman's books a look see; they're true American treasures.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book Review - Picture This by Lynda Barry

Wonderful!  I can't believe how much I love this book!  And I kind of have a crush on Lynda Barry too!

If you, like me, are privately worried about looking good, keeping up appearances, what other people think; but longing to be authentic and to find expression for your true self - this book is for you.  

Some months ago I heard an interview with Lynda on NPR and her style and demeanor so impressed me that I bought her book, What It Issight unseen.  In fact, if I had seen it, I probably wouldn't even have picked it up.  

When it arrived I was shocked to say the least and thought I'd wasted my money.  It took a couple of days to even figure out how to read it!  Then, it began to click and then it began to change my life!  No kidding! That one was about writing, but it was illustrated in Lynda's unique style which intrigued me, so upon discovering she'd written one about art as well, I couldn't resist.

This go round, there was none of the reticence, no how-do-I-read-this? learning curve; just the sheer joy of watching someone be herself, celebrate her uniqueness and candidly show me how to begin to do the same.

We all start out as artists, writers, dancers, singers.  As children, self expression is a joy!  Gradually though, most of us lose that free expression and begin to hold back for fear of ridicule or out of self judgement.  Lynda has a unique gift for coaxing it back out, and with it comes the joy of uncovering who you started out to be.  I've looked in a lot of places for what I've found here and can hardly express me appreciation for the gift Lynda Barry has given me.  I so hope you'll take a look and comment on your own impressions.  

I really think I've turned a corner, and the view is so different from here I can hardly believe I'm in the same place!  Thanks Lynda!  For everything!


Monday, September 16, 2013

Book Review - How The Light Get's In by Louise Penny

Finally, this long awaited book in the Chief Inspector Gamache series has arrived and been devoured!

I don't know if this is the last in the series (she left it somewhat open ended) but so much of the long and wonderful story was culminated in this volume.  While I can't imagine where she'd go from here, I've come to discover that Penny's imagination far exceeds my own.

I am always reading three books at a time and as it happens, some poor author has to have his work placed side by side with this and when compared with Louise Penny's work it seems a wonder that his got published at all.  Conspicuously absent are depth, theme, purpose, strong character development and credibility.  I only say this because, read alone, the other book is really quite acceptable, even exciting to read.  You see, I don't want to tear the other author down at all, I just want to elevate Louise's work to the pedestal it so richly deserves!

The story, lives, and circumstances of this volume were prepared and alluded to from the beginning of the series which seems utterly amazing to me.  She's obviously known where it all was going from the very beginning.  How ambitious, when considering the struggle she experienced to get the first volume even published.  How, disappointing, had she failed.  I don't generally like series.  I don't enjoy feeling entrapped into committing to more books in order to find out how it all turns out.  No so with this series.  Each book has been a gem in it's own right and the entire thread has been more than compelling!

The title of this volume is based on a verse from Leonard Cohen's Anthem:
Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There's a crack in everything,
That's how the light gets in.
I loved the concept when Louise introduced it to me years ago in a previous volume.  I love it even more now.  Back then I thought is wonderful advice for those, who like me are paralyzed by perfectionism.  Now, I think it more deeply expresses the critical need for weakness in our heroes, flaws in our plans, flies in our ointment and chinks in our armor.  The beauty of this and any story lies in the fact that life is happening to us, imperfect human beings, who were intended to have a completely mortal experience.  What would be so great about any of our stories if there was nothing to transcend?  Clearly perfection is not all it's cracked up to be. Transcendence, Penny's teaches in such subtle ways, comes from humility, more than capability, love more than ambition, honesty more than objective and loyalty more than security.  If you think she's wrong, let her persuade you herself. small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.                                            Alma 37:6

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book Review - The Eye of Moloch by Glenn Beck

Most of us distrust Washington.  This book of fiction gives a lot of insight into exactly why.  Beck calls it Faction, or Fiction based on facts, and he backs up many of them.  Like The Overton Window, the first in this series, The Eye of Moloch depicts a fairly credible scenario which would explain much of the idiocy we see on the surface of how this country is managed.

Most of us realize that many of the public figures we see are just puppets.  In these novels we begin to get a glimpse of the puppeteers, their motivations, methods and objectives.  It isn't a pretty sight.

Still it makes for great suspense and terrific thrills as we follow Noah Gardner as he gets swept up in a conspiracy of monumental proportions.

Clearly Beck has his libertarian motivations for telling the story.  He wants to educate.  And clearly, I feel educated.  Even so, the book is worth reading if for nothing other than pure entertainment, for it is definitely that too.


Saturday, August 31, 2013

Book Review - What It Is by Lynda Barry

This is the strangest, weirdest, coolest, most inspirational book I've read in quite some time.  

I heard an interview with Lynda Barry on NPR and her comments intrigued me so much that I ordered the book based on no other recommendation.  I had no idea how hugely therapeutic it would be for me.

I thought it would tweak my writing skill, which it verily did; what I didn't expect was how it would persuade me to quit judging myself and allow my creativity to flow freely without criticism.  She did this by very candidly exposing her own demons, making fun of them and putting them into perspective, to all of which I freely related.  

My first impression of the book, was reticence at best.  I couldn't believe she'd managed to get it published based on a cursory look.  Before long I was captivated!  To actually read it I found myself turning the book sideways and upside down so as not to miss a single thing.  Sweetie thought it all looked so silly. In doing so I had to abandon so many of my own hangups and I guess that was the whole idea.

As we grow older in our society we give up on so much of what blesses our childhood with delight, joy and creativity.  Ms Barry has changed all that.  Not only am I writing more and more freely, I am also drawing, dancing and singing!  She let me believe again, that I am an artist, dancer, singer, story teller.  I am beginning again to be who I really am in a most childlike way.  How amusing!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Book Review - Being Enough by Chieko N. Okazaki

I thought Lighten Up! was an outstanding book, and it certainly did win me over to the wonderful philosophy and counsel of Chieko Okazaki, but this one really blew me away.

Growing up and even now, living in a culture that seems to be never satisfied, this book practically opened the prison doors for me.  I filled it with so many Book Darts that I could hardly hold it up to read!

Because of all the highlighted treats its going to be tough to select a few to share with you  but here goes:

So the way to have the most possible time is to live each moment as fully as we can, being completely present.
It doesn't matter that we come to sacrament meeting every week as imperfect people who have done wrong things for which we are seeking forgiveness.  We don't have to be perfect to stretch out our mortal and unclean hands for the small piece of bread and the tiny cup of water.  We only need to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  We only need to be honest with God about what we have done wrong and sincere in our desire to repent and do better.  The sacrament ins't for perfect people; it's for imperfect people trying to move in the direction of perfection.  It's for us! 
As long as we're human, we will make mistakes.  Count on it.  Get used to it.  And get over it. 
If you have been hesitating about doing anything, because you can't do everything to fix the situation, now is the time to act.  You're not called to fix things or save him or her.  You're called to listen, to pray for this person, and to be with him or her.  Sometimes that's all we can do.  Most of the time, if you've noticed, that's what the Savior does for us.
Well, hopefully this little taste has whet your appetite because a marvelous feast of heart felt, honest, compassionate hope is in store for you if you'll take the time to read it.  I even have a couple of extra copies if you'd like to borrow one!

Sister Okazaki has helped me get past my feeling of inadequacy by teaching me to start evaluating myself in terms of what I've been given, instead of measuring it by what I lack.  Widow who offered her mite, lacked a husband and money, but Jesus measured her by her generosity, faith and humble determination and found her to be abundantly worthy.  We are enough, just as we are, with no more than what we've got.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Best Kept Little Secret in Utah!

I have driven to Manti and Ephraim dozens of times over the years and not even noticed the sign to Spring City.  Then recently a passenger on my bus told me about the place.  I was so intrigued that Cheya, Kristi and I stopped there a couple of weeks ago while meandering home from Las Vegas.

Spring City is between Mt. Pleasant and Ephraim and just a mile off the main highway.  What we found astonished us!  Here is a tiny little town that time simply forgot.  Nothing seems to have changed in 100 years.  The houses, the church, the way of life, all simple, quiet and entirely distant from our modern world.  There is some of this in Manti, Ephraim, Mt. Pleasant, Fairview and the other Sanpete towns, but each of them is mixed with so much more of the modern.  No false fronts in Spring City!

Here are a few examples:

A number of retirees have purchased and restored the old homes and fixed up the gardens and opened some of the shops.  Others have shops in a granary, chicken coup or barn out back.  Folksy crafts are sold here and there.  A sign on one shops says, "We open when we get here and close when we leave."  Another shop was open, but unattended.  Customers are on the honor system to put the sale on a receipt, calculate the tax and simple leave the money.  We found a large check in the receipt book.  There's a cute art gallery and a handmade Windsor Chair Shop. Unbelievably wonderful hand crafted chairs! 

Nobody seems intent on making a living out of these little shops, they're more of a hobby and things often seem to be sold to make room to create something else.

I loved it so much I went back a week later and spent another hour walking around mainstreet.

Here are a few more treats:

Next time you're in Central Utah, don't miss this one of a kind, utterly non-commercial, quiet little treasure.  I'd hesitate to even mention it for fear crowds would ruin everything.  But then, nobody read Live and Learn anyways.  And if you're headed my way, I wouldn't mind if you picked up a pint of two of bottled peaches from the shop pictured last.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Review - MEE Speaks by Mary Ellen Edmunds

When I went to the Philippines to serve my mission in 1969, the church there was new, only 3000 members.  Among the members, many kept asking me if I knew Sister Mary Ellen Edmunds.  Though the name sounded familiar, I had never met her.  Over the two years of my mission I was astonished at how many people, even in far flung places, members and non-members a like, inquired after this, obviously very unique and influential person.  She arrived in the Philippines in 1963 and I arrived six years later.  Still, she was very much on the minds of many!  How they loved her!  I wondered about Sister Edmunds often.  How remarkable that she remained so important to them after so many years.

Upon my return to BYU in the fall of 1971, I reclaimed my part-time position as head custodian at the Smith Family Living Center on campus.  I cleaned the heads.  One of the restrooms was a private one in an office in the Nursing Department.  There, upon a desk, stood a name plate with the name of Mary Ellen Edmunds on it.  Aha!  So that's how the name was so familiar to me!  She was still occupying that office two years later.  Since my shift was from four to seven in the morning, still, I never met her.

In the event that I had carried some sort of parasite home from the islands, BYU requested that I provide a stool sample to the Student Health Center.  I was given a little box to bring it in.  As I awkwardly crossed the campus with my little box I noticed dozens of others toting their little boxes too.  All this foreign poop converging in one place.  Seemed pretty ominous to me!  A few days later I went back to see a doctor and discuss the results of their tests upon my residue.  The Doctor was Dr. Edmunds.  I asked if he might be related to Mary Ellen and it turns out he was her father.  I was pleased to tell him of the profound influence his daughter still held on the hearts and minds of so many Filipinos.

At Conference time, I was anxious to see my old missionary pals and went to my Mission Reunion in Salt Lake City.  It was then, that I finally met this remarkable sister.  I expected her to be ten feet tall or some other equally remarkable form of extraordinary. I was quite surprised, after someone pointed her out, to find her to appear just as ordinary as the rest of us.  When I finally found her alone I ventured to introduce myself.  I reported to her of the frequent loving inquires I had entertained in her behalf.  Her eyes glistened with tears and then she giggled.  Her expression was a form of joy and attention and love and delight such as I had never experienced!  I can hardly describe how I felt being near her.  She made me feel as if all was right with the world because I was in it.  We chatted for a few moments and reminisced about the Philippines and she seemed especially emotional.  Then she said she felt impressed that she should tell me a story.  

Mary Ellen pointed out that she was single and that she longed to return to the mission field.  She said she had thought it impossible to do that until she was retired but that she could think of nothing else.  She considered going to her Bishop and sending in papers as she had done before.  But then she thought, "I want this to be a call from the Lord."  So she told no one but God.  In fasting and prayer she humbly made herself available to serve as God wished.  And then she told me that on that very morning she had received a letter from The President of the Church, calling her to serve as a health services missionary back in the PI!

I was astonished!  I couldn't comprehend the power of her faith, her love, her humility.  What I could comprehend was why, after so many years she had been so lovingly remembered by so many.  And I could see why God had heard and answered her prayers.  As a missionary, she is priceless!

Funny way to start a book review eh?  Well now you can see why I read her book when I discovered it.  It was a good book, full of faith, well worth reading.  Still, Mary Ellen, like Nephi, can't quite put in written words, the profound effect that comes of hearing her voice.  When MEE (her initials) Speaks there is something so bright, and cheerful and hopeful and kind and optimistic and humble that you can't help wondering if you aren't hearing the voice of God.

Read the book! It has a ton of encouragement and contains wonderful messages of hope and faith; but if you get the chance, listen to her speak.  The book contains what she would say but is a poor second for being in attendance when MEE Speaks!

Here's and example:


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Review - Lighten Up! by Chieko Okazaki

I read this book years ago and loved it so much that I framed the cover and hanged it on my study wall.  I remains there today.  This morning I finished my first re-read of this wonderful book and was amazed at how much better prepared I was to receive it's powerful message this time around.

Sister Okazaki was a counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency back in the eighties.  She wrote the book directly to the women who are members of that great organization.  Consequently, far fewer men than women have been exposed to this wonderful woman and her marvelous book.  This is a crying shame.

I recommend it to men all the time and after re-acquainting myself with its message, will be pressing even harder to spread the word.

Here are a few quotes from the book to whet your appetite:
Ideals are stars to steer by.  They are not a stick to beat ourselves with.  (Barbara Smith)
In principles, great clarity.  In practices, great charity.
Don't think the Lord can do without any of your gifts, no matter how you feel about them. 
When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.  (Corrie Ten Boom)
Whenever I saw a parent trying too hard to make one child fit the family mold, I flinched a little.  I knew there would be trouble.
Maybe you've received a lot of "shoulds" and "oughts" about your spiritual life.  Do any of these sound familiar?
     You should read the scriptures at the same time every day.
     You should go to the temple once a month.
     You should always wait quietly for the answer after you've prayed.
     You should always accept every calling in the Church.
Well, I have another "should" for you.  Here it is.  Are you ready?
     You should do what works for you.  
These are just a small sampling of the wisdom, insight and encouragement Sister Okazaki offers to the willing reader.  I am profoundly grateful for her counsel.  If you feel burdened by your service in the Kingdom, or your home, or your job, or your life in general read this book!  Or be reminded of Sister Okazaki's counsel:
Christ's burden is light.  When he says, "Learn of me," he wants us to do something that will be light and joyful to us, not heavy and discouraging. 
Just this week I heard someone say in Church that we should set a particular day and time to attend the temple and stick to it.  And that if we don't the devil will keep us from getting there.  I think Cheiko Okazaki might have turned in her grave had she heard that.  First of all, the message was designed to make us feel guilty that we hadn't set that date and actually made it.  Second, it implies that there is nothing on God's green earth that is more important, ever, than keeping that date.  Third, it assumes that Satan is the only one who has influence over us on a day to day basis.  Like there's no way that the Holy Ghost would spontaneously prompt me to go to the Temple.

I have heard that counsel before, and followed it.  And sometimes, not very often, I should have been doing something else that I know in my heart was, at that moment, more important.  It wasn't necessarily something big, more often, it was small, like giving my weary wife a break from three toddlers, but it was, at that moment, what the Lord would rather I do.

In church I would much prefer being joyfully inspired and uplifted, than being shamed and guilt tripped into conforming to someone else's view of perfect performance.  Their prescription for my spirituality is no more a match for mine, than are the prescriptions for our glasses.  Thank you Sister Okazaki for releasing me from the guilt our culture so readily seeks to apply.  Thank you Master, for applying the Balm of Gilead to my wounds and the Atonement to my weakness and for offering to be my yoke-mate.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review - Embracing Coincidence by Carol Lynn Pearson

I have been pretty obsessed with observing the synchronicity in my life lately.  I learned about it from Richard Eyre in his book The Three Deceivers and then got quite excited about it after reading Glenn Beck's description of "bread crumbs" in his book 7 Wonders that Will Change Your Life.  Embracing Coincidence is a collection of personal examples of synchronicity in Carol Lynn Pearson's life.

Over the years I have enjoyed her plays, songs and especially her poetry.  Mostly that all came in our younger years and while I kept some of my favorite stuff by her, I lost track of her.  Her book Will I Ever Forget this Day has greatly influenced my journaling and I wonder if I'd still be keeping a journal were it not for Sister Pearson. 

Now she has guided me to an even loftier platform.  Where Eyre and Beck got me intrigued with the concept of synchronicity, Carol Lynn taught me how to notice it, invite it, enjoy it, learn from it and use it!

Her examples are not monumental, but they are extraordinary; and they make this wonderful means of receiving guidance from God seem so very accessible.  The consequence is that I've come to realize I experience synchronicity all the time.  I've just got to learn to notice and ponder it as it appears.

Carol Lynn also makes it obvious that appreciating and making use of synchronicity increases the likelihood and frequency of it's occurrence.  I'm quite sure that when she set out to write the book, she expected to catalogue past instances of synchronicity in her life.  As it turned out, much of the synchronicity she shares occurred while she was writing the book.

This is a fun nightstand read.  Each example is short and sweet and deserves to be pleasantly slept upon.  

Then there's Carol Lynn herself.  Her candid sharing lets us into the heart of a very unique and marvelous person.  The stores of her life and interaction with the world are completely delightful and inspirational in and of themselves.  She breaks a lot of Molly Mormon Molds as she goes about doing good; and it's fun to see first hand, what righteous living bereft of Pharisaism looks like.  Good on ya Carol Lynn!


Book Review - The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Sweetie has been begging me to read this book for years.  Why did I wait?  I loved it!

This is wonderful story about a lonely old Jewish Man who lives in New York City.  He is retired and alone and goes about trying to get noticed.  He drops his change, or tips over a store display.  One day he even poses nude for an art class.  Anything to feel less invisible.  His name is Leo Gursky and he has good reason to feel overlooked, passed by - invisible.

It is also about a pugnacious young girl named Alma, whose sole ambition seems to be wilderness survival; and her younger brother Bird, who strongly suspects he might be the messiah or at the very least a Lamed Vovnik.  

It is written from the perspective of Alma and Leo; both of whom I adore.  They are so real and accessible.  Krauss has a wonderful knack for making ordinary people and ordinary circumstances become extraordinary.  And then you discover there is nothing ordinary about their connection and the synchronous way in which their lives come together.   

Leo and Alma fancy themselves writers and they sure made a reader out of me!  It's almost hard to give Nichole Krauss credit for her characters have completely upstaged her.

Some reviewers think the book is convoluted.  I think it is an artistic masterpiece which I will read again!


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Give a Little Love

 Shortly after I shared this video on Facebook, I sat down to read from Cheiko Okazaki's book Lighten Up! where I found these words:

"What does charity mean?....I think sometimes we read these beautiful scriptures and think, "Charity is really something incredible. We have to be like Jesus - willing to be crucified. It's mysterious. It's something that's too hard (or too big, or too complicated) for me to do." I have a very simple, uncomplicated view of charity. It's ordinary kindness. It's common courtesy. It's everyday thoughtfulness. it's simple sensitivity. It's the Golden Rule. It's putting yourself in the place of the other person and saying, "How would I like to be treated?" I think that 99 percent of our difficulties with the concept of charity would disappear altogether if we just kept this view in mind."
I believe in Synchronicity!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Review - My Grandfather's Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen

This is my third reading of this most wonderful book!  It won't be my last!

Rachel Naomi Remen speaks to my soul.  Rachel is a very interesting person and though the book is not really a memoir, you certainly come away feeling you know her.  And love her.  She's the granddaughter of a Jewish Rabbi who was driven out of Russia.  She is the daughter of parents she calls Socialistic Atheists.  While she doesn't intimate any personal religious preference, she is deeply spiritual.  Her spirituality is open mindedly drawn from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Mormonism, Hinduism and life!

She has taught me that every moment is an opportunity to learn, to grow and to bless life; our own and that of others.  She is obviously masterful at doing this and by example freely shares her talent.  I am a better person for having read her book, every single time I read it.

Rachel, unlike so many "gurus" these days, isn't about platitudes and quick fixes.  Her stories are read, gritty (often dealing with death or impending death), yet they are loftily inspiring and accessible.  She was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of sixteen.  Surgery after surgery eventually resulted in the removal of her colon.  Despite that she became a pediatrician.  Later, realizing that she wanted to treat the whole person instead of just the ailing body of her patients, she leapt blindly into a new discipline of a much more whole person medicine.  Not with a mind to challenge conventional medicine, but rather to change it.  She has been influential in doing so.

Life has it's grief and difficulty.  If you are dealing with such things, this book will be a profound blessing to you.  It most certainly has been for me.  It was recommended to me by my own Physician and has been the most important thing he ever did for my emotional, spiritual and physical health.  Legion are the ways I have shared Rachel's light with those around me. Though she wouldn't know me from Adam, I am pleased to call her my friend.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

God Is The Gardener

President Hugh B. Brown is one of the greatest orators the church ever produced.  This is one of two favorite speeches of his.  I have listened to it often throughout my life and received great comfort and inspiration every time.  I hope, if you haven't heard it, that you will.

I had the privilege of meeting this great man within the walls of his own home.  It was by invitation of my dear friend Ellen.  What a sweet experience that was.  Reflecting on that experience and upon the occasion of President Brown coming to Vernal to dedicate the Ashley (now Vernal) Stake Center my testimony is affirmed.  At that dedication he entered the room, and I felt it!  And as we stood and sang We Thank Thee of God for a Prophet as he walked to the stand; it was then I knew this Church is indeed guided by prophets of God.  A few years later, at his feet and by the bedside of his sweet wife I came to know why.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Blessing Life

I spend a lot of time at the kitchen table these days.  It sits by the patio door which offers a wonderful view of the back yard and the critters out there.  We have a couple of rabbits that we release to the yard as soon as the garden is in.  They like spending the winter out of the hutch and we like watching them romp around in the snow.  They dig themselves a burrow during the fall and trim back the lawn and perennials for us.

When the snow falls we go back to feeding them, so they come to the patio for some hay and rabbit pellets.  I also love to feed the wild bird once the snow falls.  I suppose they find it harder to find food when everything's covered with snow.

This year I bought a one gallon black rubber bowl to set out.  The animals can manage by eating snow, but I suppose it consumes a lot of energy.  I set out the bowl yesterday and with the sun on it the water never froze until sunset.  Apparently the black rubber absorbs the sun's heat and keeps the water from freezing.  This was a surprise as the temperature was below zero all morning and after four hours it still hadn't frozen.

The rabbits and birds love having water to drink!

In just 24 hours we've seen Starlings, Eurasian Collared Doves, Juncos and House Finches.  I'm also tossing some cracked corn out in hopes of attracting quail.

There was a time when I wanted to possess these creatures, an others.  At one time or another I've had Chinchillas, an Iguana, dogs, cats, turtles and tortoises, lizards, horses, parakeets, fish, and hedgehogs.  Somehow, the act of caging, penning, leashing, corralling and otherwise controlling their lives became unpleasant for me.  I keep the rabbits only because I don't want to eat them and don't know what else to do with them.  It is painful to put them back in the hutch in the Spring.  I don't think they'll be replaced when they're gone.

Yesterday while watching the menagerie outside the patio door Sarah, the neighbor's cat showed up.  My first reaction was to case her off with extreme prejudice.  I don't want her eating my birds, now do I?  Then I noticed Bandit take notice as well.  Bandit is my grand kid's dog.  He and they live right behind us.  For days I have watched Bandit guard his dog dish.  The doves and starlings have been busy helping themselves to his food and he has been busy chasing them off.  He is mostly Great Pyrenees with a little Australian Shepherd mixed in.  Might even be 50/50 but mostly he got the great genes.  He spends his days supervising the rabbits from his side of the chain-link fence.  Now he's a bit frustrated that he can't chase the birds away from the feeders.  He was really frustrated that Sarah could prance around over here with such impunity.

Anyway, decided if I was about blessing life, I shouldn't be prejudiced toward Sarah.  She needs to eat too. I've always known that when you feed birds you are setting the table for cats and hawks and falcons.  It's just the way of things.  I decided I want to be about blessing life, not fixing it.  So Sarah is just as welcome as the birds are.  She's also a bit frustrated because Bandit's bark is certainly fair warning for the birds and her prospects are pretty slim as Bandit is vigilant in spades.  So, it all works out.  The rabbits have company.  The birds have food.  Sarah has a challenge.  And Bandit, who is a working dog, has a job.

The interesting thing is how I feel.  Emancipating myself from the task of fixing things has freed me up to a lot more pleasure observing how things turn out in my little back yard.  Now, I still wonder about an intruder far more distasteful and sinister than Sarah.  I have a great distaste for Starlings.  We'll have to see if I can make room in my heart to be willing to bless them too.  Oh look!  There's one now!  Getting a drink.  Bandit has him pretty far so good.

I fell asleep last night thinking about this business of blessing life instead of fixing it.  I think it may very well apply to my relationships with people as well as critters.  I think I just might be learning to quit trying to control things.  Life naturally has balance and things usually settle out as God intended.  I've just got to let go and let that happen.  Something tells me things will just work out better if I will stop trying to fix life and simply observe it, love it and bless it where I can.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review - The Invisible Saint by Curtis Taylor

I hope I don't create a lot of frustration by reviewing this book.  It is out of print, though several used copies are currently available through  I read The Invisible Saint several years ago.  I got it from the local library.  Recently, I wished to review a concept and story presented in the book, but the library had since disposed of the volume.    I asked Sweetie to Book Mooch it but none were found there.  She did, however find it used on Amazon and bought me one for Christmas!

This comes close to being my favorite LDS novel.  It is crisp, hilarious, respectful and inspiring.  It was published in 1990 but I didn't find it to be out of date in the least.  In fact in my own case, it seemed more pertinent today than it did 20 years ago.  Most LDS humor makes me cringe as too often it borders on sacrilege.  Other LDS fiction sometimes gets a little too syrupy for me.  Neither is the case with this gem.

It's about a regular guy who no one seems to notice.  He gets to feeling like he must be invisible.  It certainly appears that he doesn't, appear that is.  He is a sweet, kind, good person.  He sets out to bless the lives of those around him and seems pretty clumsy in his attempt.  Still things work out wonderfully and I begin to realize that when our hearts are sincere, God blesses our efforts despite the awkward attempts we make to help.

I have felt pretty invisible, and clumsy, myself, lately and reading this book now has been a great comfort to me.  It is going on the shelf where I won't lose track of it because I well definitely read it again.  If not for the comfort, then for the hilarious laughs.

Remember, the Lord loves his servants, bungling, or otherwise.  He must get quite a kick out of us too!


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I Believe in Synchronicity

I can usually be found reading three books at a time.  One, I keep by my beside.  Another is always on the bus.  The third, is in my study (or as Jeff calls it, The Man Cave.)  Additionally, I read The Book of Mormon most every day and try to read The Ensign magazine as regularly as I can.  I try to keep up on the news too.  Early in our marriage when I discovered Sweetie simultaneously reading multiple books I was flabbergasted.  I couldn't imagine how she kept track of which was which.  After trying it though, I found it no different than following several TV series.  While I'm not particularly brilliant, I am able to do this.

There are a couple of pluses to reading different books at a time.  I always have a book near by and don't have to pack one with me.  I have one everywhere I like to read.  I pick a type of book that fits the place I will be reading.  Something with short stand alone chapters is nice for the bedside table.  I don't last long reading in bed, but I do love to go to bed thinking of something inspirational and thought provoking.  I'm currently reading My Grandfather's Blessings, in bed.   I like to read novels on the bus.  Bus driving includes a lot of waiting.  Waiting for departure times.  Waiting while passengers visit this or participate in that.  That sort of thing.  A good novel passes the time quite pleasantly.  With longer layovers, I like to write too.  Like right now.  I'm sitting, and writing, in the bus in Park City, while waiting to return a load of skiers to Vernal after their day on the slopes.

In my study I read something heavier; usually philosophical or biographical in nature.  There I can take notes and check references a little easier.  Though, with my iPhone I do that with novels and other books too.  I love having the internet handy to look things up like locations, definitions, historical accuracy; stuff like that.

Now to the best reason for reading multiple books over the same period of time.  Synchronicity.  Early on I began noticing how very often what I was learning in one volume was enhanced, reinforced or clarified in another.

Here's an example:  A while back I was reading A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny.  Penny is my favorite novelist right now.  She makes me think.  She quietly challenges my perceptions and teaches me a lot about myself.  One of her characters, Inspector Beauvoir, posed a question, "Can people really change?"  Eventually she answers the question, but that comes at the end of the book.  I'm trying to make some changes and Louise helped me see what that looks like.  I've wanted to change some things about myself for a very long time and I, like Louise's character, was wondering it it was really possible.

  At the same time I was reading Glenn Beck's 7 Wonders that Will Change Your Life, obviously that too was addressing the possibility of people changing.  But on that day, I read:  "Your path is to forever evolve into yourself, to be striving to become the person your are supposed to be."  In other words, my job is to change.  But Beck makes it also very plain that it is sometimes a slow evolutionary, or in my case, glacial, process.

The next morning I was listening to a recording of October 2013 General Conference on my phone and heard our dear prophet, President Thomas S. Monson speak these words:  "We need to bear in mind that people can change. They can put behind them bad habits. They can repent from transgressions."   Who better to answer our question (me and  Beauvoir) than this faithful servant of the Lord.

Now, I'm not writing to persuade you that change is possible, or that I've changed.  I just wanted to show you that synchronicity happens.  And to show you that reading several books during the same period of time makes synchronicity almost common place.  It certainly occurs in other dimensions of my life but most frequently in the books and other literature I expose myself to.

Now you need to understand that I pretty carefully select what I read so that I don't miss out on the best books by wasting time with mediocre ones.  Even so, I do not choose them for theme or subject matter.  In fact the less my books have in common the more frequent the synchronicity!  If everything I read hovered around the same subject matter, I wouldn't call common themes synchronicity at all.

Truth is, I don't usually call it synchronicity.  Glenn Beck calls it Bread Crumbs.  Carol Lynn Pearson calls it Love Notes from Heaven.  Elder David A. Bednar and Nephi call it The Tender Mercies of the Lord.  I like that one best.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Oh, Canada

Sweetie and I have spent many precious days north of the border.  Too often we overlook the great neighbors we have up there.  Most Americans can't even name the capital city of our closest ally and friend.  Can you?  Here Tom Brokaw explains Canada to American's.  No spoiler; he won't be answering the question for you.
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