Wildcat Hunt Dream – September 24, 2016


I love it when I have technicolor dreams of breathtaking beauty.

wildcat Last night I dreamed that I was mountain man Jim Bridger walking along beautiful wilderness trails in Canada hunting a mysterious wildcat. It had gorgeous spotted fur. I thought it would make a nice warm fur coat. The problem was that I had no idea what I would do if I caught up to it. I didn’t have a gun, camera or even a knife! 

I was walking along the trail when it turned into wetlands. I hopped from one dry spot to another. I came out of the woods and saw the wetlands spreading out in front of me in all directions.

I was stunned by the beauty of it all. I heard a Wild Kingdom type voiceover say, “A lot of Greek Orthodox families settled in this area.” I looked around but couldn’t see any sign of people, houses or civilization. I wondered where they were hiding.

I woke up wondering why Jim Bridger was on my mind.  several months ago I read The Revenant, in which Jim Bridger plays a supporting role.  When I was a kid I was a avid reader (still am).  I read the biographies of all the great explorers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, like Daniel Boone, Davy Crocket, Jim Bowie (of the famous Bowie knife), and many others.  It’s possible that I am redefining my life now that I have retired from my Mittyesque life.

 

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Owning It


Here’s a great blog from Introvert, Dear on Owning Your Introversion: 12 Ways to Own Your Introversion

Number 4 is Leave when you want to.

I want to leave.  Leave my job.  Owning my introversion means taking responsibility for my own happiness.  And this job doesn’t make me happy.  It makes me miserable.  In my “role” as a manager, I’m expected to be a take-charge outgoing socializer.  Not happening.

I heard about this book, Never Eat Alone, and just about freaked.  I almost had a panic attack when I saw it in the bookstore.  That’s what I mean.  I can’t even handle the idea of going to lunch with a new person every day just to be successful in my job.

Time to leave this party.

So, I have been thinking about early retirement. But, I have a big obstacle.  Huge!

The company I work for has a tradition of throwing big blowout parties for anyone who retires, with catered food, speeches, balloons, and all the retiree’s relatives that they can convince to show up.

I can’t face retirement because I’m terrified of the party.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World

Diagonally-Parked in a Parallel Universe: Working Through Social Anxiety

Two Old Favorites


My public library is just plain awesome.  I love it.  Nothing beats the library.
logo  Every year, give or take a couple of months, I get a craving to read an old favorite.  I’m getting ready to take a road trip to visit the Munchkin at her graduation.  I wanted to get something to read on the plane up and the drive back.

An all time favorite is Robin McKinley’s Hero and the Crown.  This is one book that I have read and enjoyed every year since I discovered it at the Munchkin’s seventh grade book fair.  I especially wanted an e-book for my iPad or audio version for my iPhone.

My library has a couple of different options for ebooks and audio books.  You can check out the Kindle or audio version of a book using the OverDrive Media Player app. Audio books are available from Recorded Books on their OneClickDigital app.

The e-book version of Hero and the Crown isn’t available on Overdrive, so I checked the library’s OneClickDigital page.  Lo and behold! A Recorded Books audio version was right there, available to check out.  The Library is closed today, but that is not a problem.  I downloaded the book and started listening on my commute home.  Wow!

I mentioned two favorites.  This other was a very copacetic find.  While browsing the catalog for The Hero and the Crown, another Newberry Medal winner came up in the search results: The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli. This book won the Newberry Medal in 1950.  The title jingled a bell in my distant memory, so I checked out the Kindle version.  I was reading it on my lunch hour and it became more and more familiar.

I read The Door in the Wall when I was in seventh grade.  I was volunteering in my middle school library at the time.  I became lost in the monastic life portrayed in the early chapters of the book.  This book further fueled my love of reading and kindled a longing for the monastic life.  I only recently ‘fessed up to this secret desire while sharing in our local small group discussion.  I thought it was buried beneath thirty-three dusty years of accounting, but the spark still burns.

Thus ends the story of my two latest finds among the stacks of the digital library system.

What are your favorite reads, and how did you find them?

Answered Prayers


Prayer works.

I was getting bored and frustrated with random reading.  There’s too much dystopia in the bookstores these days, don’tcha think. What happens when the lights go out?  Or an asteroid hits the moon? Or the rapture comes and I’m Left Behind?  I get enough dystopia just reading the newspaper every day.

It’s depressing.  Vampires, shmampires. It seems like everyone is trying to write the next The Twilight Series. Yawn.  “What does this have to do with prayer,” you ask? Hold your horses.  I’m getting to that.

I did enjoy Justin Cronin’s The Passage and The Twelve (Book Two of The Passage Trilogy).  It’s quite different from the usual smarmy vampire romance. The characters are interesting and engaging.  Enough interesting things happen and with cliffhangers at the end of every chapter the story keeps rolling along. What will happen in book three I wonder.  (Hurry up Mr. Cronin!)

Now that’s done and I need a new fictional fix.   I’m craving something without vampires for a change.  There’s a certain kind of story that just makes you feel good. Hmmmm.

Here’s my list of feel-good favorites that I turn to when I’m burned out.  Like Mom’s baked macaroni and cheese, they’re comfort food for the brain.
The Hero and the Crown & The Blue Swordby Robin Mckinley.  I can never get enough of these two stories.
Dances With Wolves 
Watership Down
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
Random Harvest, by James Hilton

I found myself standing in front of my bookshelf, looking at this collection.  I wasn’t really in the mood to re-read any of them, but wanted something like them. I prayed a little prayer and it trickled up to heaven. I prayed quietly, so silently that I almost didn’t hear it myself, feeling guilty that I wasn’t praying for something more providential, like ending world hunger, or for an end to human trafficking. (That’s whole ‘nother post.)

Somebody upstairs must have been listening. (Maybe Saint Catherine of Alexandria, patron saint of libraries?)  While browsing the online audio book collection of my local I found an available copy of The Hollow Hills (Book 2 of The Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart).

After a quick download on the Overdrive Media Player app, I started listening to it on my commute.  I could tell right away that this would be another of those feel-good favorites. But I really hate to start a series in the middle (pesky spoilers).  Book 1, The Crystal Cave, was not on audio.  Eager to start at the beginning, I checked out a really beat up first edition (1970) hardback from the library.

Yep, it’s an answer to prayer. It’s not even Christmas yet, and God has given me a personalized gift of love, a new book by a new author, custom made for me.

In my devotional this morning I read,
“Without God’s love, there is no way to establish [a foundation for a true family]. Without God’s love, there is no way for us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. Love is truly the source and wellspring of our life and happiness.”Exposition of the Divine Principle

I have received many answers to prayer over the years. They are usually related to work or mission.  More like a, “Let’s get this job done,” kind of answer (James 2:18); a soldier’s marching orders.  But this answer was special, because it was purely unconditional, from God’s heart of love to my heart.

I want to abide in Your heart of love always,
To be inundated, overcome,
Swept away by that sweet love.
No agenda,
Just Your loving presence.
With every beat of my heart,
Every breath I take.
Every day fresh and new.
Every morning amidst the sparkling dew.
Soak my feet with Your love as I walk barefoot in the grass.
Freshen me and breathe me in,
as I breathe You in
to dwell in the altar of my heart.

Torrance Public Library Summer Reading Program


TPL at the Wilson Park Farmers Market 6-1-13While strolling through the Wilson Park Farmers Market today, I came across one of my favorite things.  No, not okra, free books!  The Torrance Public Library set up a booth in the center of the Farmers Market to promote their Summer Reading Programs.  The Summer Reading Program starts on June 21.  The Summer Reading Rrogram is not only for kids.  There is even a program for adults.  Read books and win prizes.  More on the Summer Reading Program coming soon.

The Friends of the Torrance Library were there too.  Friends of the TPL 6-1-13 2
Friends of the TPL 6-1-13The Friends of the Torrance Library had set up a table where they were giving away free books for kids and free cookbooks.
  I picked up an easy reading kids book to send to my friend who teaches at the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona.

 

Review: The Hidden Hand of God – Remarkable Answered Prayers


The Hidden Hand of God I just finished reading a wonderful book, The Hidden Hand of God – a selection of true stories of prayers answered from Guideposts Magazine. Reading through these stories takes me back thirty seven years to the summer I discovered the real Jesus. I’d been sick that summer and was recovering at the home of an elderly church lady who had been a lifelong subscriber to Guideposts Magazine. While I was recovering, my heavenly prescription was to read one whole issue of Guideposts, one chapter of the New Testament and pray before going to sleep. Many of the stories in this book seemed familiar to me. It is very encouraging and inspiring to read these stories. That summer these stories taught me to hope that my Heaveny Father would also listen to my prayers and answer them. Reading them now they remind me of the many personal experiences I have had over the years of answered prayers. What do you think? Does God answer prayers? Has He answered any of your prayers? Post a comment with your stories or questions.

Pelicans and the Principles of Freedom


I like watching birds.  That’s not the same as bird-watching.  Just watching birds.  I’ve always been fascinated by birds in flight.  When I’m walking or running along the Strand I keep my eyes open for birds. Typically I see pigeons, a couple of crows, some pelicans and seagulls  There’s always bunch of seagulls hanging out near the Redondo Beach Pier. Most are just standing on the beach, looking our to sea. There are always a few picking at trash in the parking lot, chasing each other and bickering over some choice morsel.

I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull when I was a teenager and even saw the movie in the theater when it was released.

 

But like Johnathan, ordinary seagulls don’t inspire me.  I like to watch the pelicans in flight. On land pelicans are awkward, ugly creatures. A friend of mine, who is a fisherman and surfer says he hates pelicans.  They are always trying to steal his bait.  If they catch the bait, you have a heck of a time reeling it in and getting the hook out of its beak.

But in flight pelicans are transformed into something entirely different. They can soar endlessly with only an occasional flap of their wings.  They usually fly in formation, one behind the other, just to the side of the leader’s wingtips.

Early in the morning the Santa Monica Bay is often still and smooth as glass, reflecting the pale blue of the dawn sky.  When the water is like this the pelicans skim along just inches above the water.  I’ve often wondered why they do this and how they can stay in the air so effortlessly.

Another favorite flying technique is wave hopping.  As a wave rolls in the line of pelicans form up and skim along just inches above the wave.  As they skim along the length of the wave they angle in slightly toward the beach, riding on the cushion of air pushed up by the swell. As the wave starts to break they flap two or three times and glide out to the next wave that is just beginning to swell.

Pelicans understand the natural laws governing their environment, like the laws of aerodynamics.  Whether they learned from inborn instinct, following examples, or their own experience, somehow they know and this allows them to survive and thrive.  It’s when they stray from the natural environment that they know that they run into trouble.

When a pelican tries to snag an easy meal by stealing my friend’s bait, they get snagged instead. When they stray from the laws that they know they lose their freedom and suffer the indignity of losing their freedom of flight and suffering the pain of having the hook extracted from their beak or gullet.

People are kind of the same way.  If we stick to the right principles, life goes smoothly. When we stray from what is right we can get ourselves in trouble. The challenge is to know what is right.

Physical laws like gravity are pretty obvious.  You can’t say that you don’t believe in gravity.  Whether you believe in it or not, it will still have the same effect. If you trip on something, you will fall down. There are the scientific laws of the physical world: physics, chemistry, and biology.  There are the laws of mathematics: algebra, geometry and calculus.

Then there are traffic laws.  If you drive responsibly, obeying the traffic laws, stopping for red lights, drive the speed limit and don’t drive drunk, you are free to drive all over town.  But if you decide not to obey or believe in the traffic laws, “Red lights don’t apply to me!” Sooner or later you will get a ticket or have an accident. Then you will lose your freedom  because your car is totaled, you get injured or end up in jail.

There are other types of laws, societal mores, emotional and relational principles.  If you learn these principles and follow them you will enjoy freedom, peace and loving relationships.  Many of these are laid out in familiar and ancient scriptures.

The Bible teaches in the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Very good advice.

There is usually reciprocity in these spiritual principles, meaning what you give is what you get.

Judge not lest ye be judged.  
The measure you give will be the measure you receive.
You reap what you sow.

Even common sense says, “What goes around, comes around.”

Just like gravity, these principles rule our lives even if we decide not to believe in them or follow their wisdom.

Even Freedom follows certain principles.  I have tried to illustrate the first of these in this blog post.

The Principles of Freedom are:

(1) There is only freedom within the Principle (Physical and Natural Laws).

(2) There is no freedom without human responsibility (consequences, good or bad).
Our primary responsibility is to learn the principles and apply them in our daily lives. Dad always told me when teaching me to drive, “Ignorance of the Law is no excuse.” These principles are always in action, whether we understand them and whether we believe in them or not.  Ignorance of the Law is no excuse.

(3) There is no freedom without good results. (The Pursuit of Happiness)  If you act “freely” and experience bad consequences, or cause harm to others, that is not true freedom.

In this blog post I tried to illustrate the first principle of freedom, Freedom within the Principle.  In future blog posts I will tackle the other principles of freedom.

I welcome your comments and questions.

Thank You Notes as a Spiritual Practice


What kind of writer are you?  Do you prefer pen and paper, writing longhand or is typing easier for you?  Are you an extroverted writer that shares with everyone or an introverted writer who keeps it private?  I’m a pen and paper writer.  It doesn’t really seem like writing without the tactile experience of the ink flowing onto the paper.  I’ve also been a very private writer, hardly ever sharing with others.

Writing in a journal has been my primary form of spiritual practice for years.  It’s personal and intimate, but something that I don’t share.  Blogging has caused me to consider how my writing is received by others, real readers.  Does my writing really express what I mean? Only real readers can say.

 The Art of the Handwritten Note

I used to write a lot of handwritten letters, but over the years I got out of practice with advent of email. I was reminded of this when I discovered The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication by Margaret Shepherd.  This quick read inspired me to revive my practice of writing personal notes in my own handwriting.  I am normally not a very goal oriented person, but I set a goal for myself to write two or three notes each day.  This challenged me to be more observant, and look for opportunities to express my appreciation to coworkers, friends and even strangers.

Many books and articles on gratitude recommend writing down five or ten things per day that you are grateful for.  I even read one article that suggested making a list of one hundred different things that you are grateful for.  This stretches your concepts beyond the usual default things on the list, like spouse, kids, yummy food and sunshine.

It is one thing to write your gratitude list late at night alone in your room or in the privacy of your journal. No one will ever see it (unless you have a snoop in the house) so you don’t have to sweat the penmanship, grammar or spelling.  It can even be in a personal shorthand.

It is quite another thing to write out a thank you note that you are going mail to someone.  You want the recipient be able to read your handwriting, understand your grammar and spelling. You want them to feel appreciated.  You want to make their day.  
Thank you notes are the simplest notes to write.  As a recently diagnosed Celiac patient, I started writing thank you notes to considerate and helpful wait-staff at restaurants with gluten-free selections on their menus.  It’s like saying grace after the meal.

Synchronistically, while starting on this grateful journey, I ran across Almost Home, a cute story of a homeless sixth grader about Sugar Mae Cole and her adopted dog.  The author, Joan Bauer, won a Newbery Honor Medal for an earlier novel, Hope Was Here.  This is a story with epistolary elements that spice it up and give this serious subject quite a bit of humor.  I have a thing for epistolary literature (blog post to follow). The story is sprinkled with poems, homework assignments, emails and thank you notes.  She also describes a thank you note game, that inspired this post.

I’m not going to spoil your fun and let the cat out of the bag by describing the game.  I’ll let you dig for this nugget of gold on your own.  The description of the game encouraged me to redouble my efforts to find reasons to send thank you notes.  Sugar Mae even finds ways to send thank you notes with a twist by finding unique ways to thank people for negative experiences.

That’s where I received my epiphany on the thank you note as a spiritual practice.  It is a quite a challenge to find the silver lining in a difficult situation or a negative interaction. Expressing it gracefully with the sincere intention to turn the situation around and brighten someone’s day isn’t easy.  It requires mindfulness, intention and prayer.  Writing the note, and sending it, is where the spiritual rubber of gratitude practice meets the rough road of daily life.

If you want to get started on your own journey of gratitude, Amazon.com has quite a selection of delightful note cards that will help you get inspired.  At the time of this writing, Peter Pauper has a 4-for-3 promotion on select note cards and thank you cards.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art also has a nice selection of note cards with reproductions of fine artwork.

Please share your feedback and experiences with gratitude practice and writing thank you notes.  Thank you!

The G.I. Train Wreck


No, it’s not a real train wreck, but it sure felt like it.  In January last year, just a week into my resolutions to run more, read more and write more, I hit a major speed bump and everything got derailed.  Including this blog.

The short version, without all the gory details, is that I had a major flare up of a mysterious intestinal disease.

Eeewww!


It took forever to get a diagnosis, and even longer to recover. My running regimen was completely derailed.  It was hard to run anywhere besides to the bathroom. I was tested for everything by my Gastroenterologist (GI). Nothing showed up.  My primary care Dr. mentioned the possibility of Celiac.  I’d never heard of it.  I asked the GI to test for the antibodies, he said it was negative.

By this time it was five months. I would have bought stock in Imodium AD if it had provided any relief!  As a last resort the GI Dr. scoped my entire digestive tract.  The biopsies showed definite damage due to CD.  Suddenly my blood tests made sense and he declared them positive for CD. LOL.  Make up your mind!

As a final proof positive,  he had me swallow a capsule sized video camera to get pictures of my guts.  It was all transmitted by wifi to a receiver on my belt.  I was officially diagnosed on June 4th, 2012.  I officially began my gluten free journey.  That is a whole ‘nother story!

 

The treatment for Celiac Disease (CD) is a very strict gluten free diet.  No wheat, rye or barley in any form whatsoever.  That is another whole ‘nother story.

Gluten plays hide-n- seek in so many places that walking through the grocery store is like walking into a minefield.

Celiac Disease is an auto-immune disorder where the body reacts to gluten in the small intestine by attacking itself.  It severely damages the small intestines ability to absorb nutrients.

This manifests in a myriad of mysterious ways.  I’ve had this all my life.  I just didn’t know it. Most of my earlier symptoms were fatigue, depression, forgetfulness and other things that come & go.

Finally, after a whole year of pretty discouraging symptoms, I began to feel better last week.  I finally have the energy and inspiration to get back to blogging, but I wanted to give an explanation of my absence to my faithful nine (9) followers!  LOL.