Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Cleansing of America

When Tristi asked for volunteers to review Cleon Skousen’s latest book I jumped at the chance, in large part because my wife is a huge fan. One chapter into the book and I realized that I was now a fan too.

Brother Skousen lays out seven lectures in a logical and sequential fashion describing where this country has been, and using scriptures, shows where it is headed. One of the things I really appreciated was the questions he posed at the end of each chapter. The questions forced me to remember what I had just read and made sure that I had a clear understanding of what was just discussed before proceeding to the next chapter.

There are several instances in his treatise where Brother Skousen points out that he is giving his “opinion” on given subjects. However, interspersed in his opinion are passages of scriptures that support why he views things as he does.

The Cleansing of America helped answer several questions I had about the destiny of this country and things building up to the second coming of Christ. For example, I had heard that the time would come when the church would call its missionaries home. Brother Skousen points out the scriptures that support this belief. He also eloquently explains why they will be called back and what it means for the world and this country.

His lectures are full of footnotes citing his sources. I found myself so interested in the subject matter that I looked up those footnotes and then Googled certain footnotes to see what else I could discover.

Now that I have finished The Cleansing of America I will be going through my wife’s collection of other Cleon Skousen books.

If you are already a fan of Cleon Skousen then this book is a must have to complete your collection. If you’re not a fan yet, do yourself a favor, buy a copy of this book and then wonder like I did why you didn’t become a fan sooner.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Caterpillar's Flight

From Laura’s bio, “Laura Lester Fournier - Author, Motivational Speaker, Minister…Laura Lester Fournier is the internationally known author of a series of spoken word CD's. She has just released her fifth project, "The Caterpillar's Flight." Her book, CD's, and message are making their way around the world and spreading a transformational tone of peace, forgiveness, unconditional love, and grace.”

Since the top of my blog states that I’m sharing some of my religious views I need to make the disclaimer that Laura and I are not of the same faith. There are principles and concepts she teaches in her book that I have heard several times in Sunday School classes. However, other views of hers would not be taught at my church. By making that statement I am in no way trying to discount or diminish her words or beliefs. I am merely stating that in some aspects they differ from my own. I think that is okay, and I’m sure from what I have gleaned from her book that she’s okay with it too.

The chapters of her book are titled:
The Journey
True Love
The Butterfly Effect
and finally, Parting Thoughts

The book is a culmination of life lessons learned spanning several decades. She teaches of the interconnectedness we share, i.e. as I find peace, forgiveness, true love, and grace, not only does it bless my life but it blesses yours as well. Conversely, the love you feel in your life not only blesses you, but me too. We are connected, we are one. Accordingly, the best thing that I can do for future generations is to live my life in such a way that my children will be receivers of my good attributes which can have a transformational effect on society around us.

Though the goal is for world peace and harmony it doesn’t begin on a macro scale. Rather it begins on the micro scale by my learning how to find peace and forgiveness in my heart that I can then send out to the universe.

Laura graciously shares with the reader the times in her life where she was sexually abused early on in life. She shares stories of being bullied at school for years. These life experiences had a profound impact on her life. Her environment tried to cruelly place labels on her, “You’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re worthless, etc.” She shows how she overcame these horrific experiences to find the peace and forgiveness she desperately needed in her own life.

One of my favorite stories in the book talks of how she was being bullied by a group of girls at a new school she had just been moved to. During this ordeal a girl knocked her to the ground and then challenged her to get back up and hit her. Laura’s response was, “but why would I want to?” We do not have to send out hate to others even when we receive it. We do not need to become slaves to the labels others want to pin on us. We can exercise our agency to rise above. We can send out love for hate or fear. We can send out forgiveness to others, which not only benefits those we forgive but perhaps more importantly, helps free us from the need to carry such heavy burdens weighing us down.

In chapter six Laura states,
Despite the fact that the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, it still has its caterpillar essence within. It could not be a butterfly, if it had not been a caterpillar.

Each day, one way or another – we find our wings. We must continue to remind ourselves that no matter what has happened in our lives, we can aspire to great heights. When we look upon our challenges as opportunities to evolve, then we honor our experiences in the way God intended. It is a choice to either live our lives battered and flattened by pain, or heal and use these situations as a platform from which to dive into the wonder-filled possibilities.

You can go here if you’d like to purchase a copy of The Caterpillar’s Flight.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I'll Know You By Heart

Last Tuesday evening some friends of mine at Valor Publishing Group were holding a massive book launch. I thought that I’d stop by just to lend some morale support. Tristi Pinkston was signing copies of her latest book, Secret Sisters. She’s been the nice gentle boost I’ve needed from time to time in my writing endeavors. Also, Daron Fraley was there. I had recently read the book he was promoting, The Thorn. I will be doing a book review on The Thorn in early April. I had never met Daron and this seemed like a good opportunity to do that.

The last thing that I was planning on doing was buying any books for me. I’m already committed to doing four book reviews. My plate is full. The book launch was cool. There was music, food, and several authors. What’s not to like about an event like that?

As I walked along the long table full of authors and books I saw Kimberly Job sitting at the end of the table with Tristi. I said “hi” to her as I spoke with Tristi and then decided that even though I wasn’t there to buy any books for me, my wife, Wendy, might like something new to read. Kimberly’s new romance/suspense novel is called I’ll Know You By Heart.

As I read the back cover of the book, I hesitated. The story line struck a familiar, uncomfortable chord and I wondered if it would hit too close to home for Wendy. However, when I got home she asked how to book signing was, and I replied, “It went well, um, here’s a book I got for you.”

Wendy started reading the book on Wednesday and by Thursday morning she told me how much she enjoyed it. She finished the book in one day. I had taken Thursday off from work, as it was the first day of March Madness and I knew weeks before that BYU would be playing their opening round that day.

After BYU’s dramatic double overtime win, I casually picked up the book and thought that I’d read just the first chapter. Romance novels aren’t really my thing, but I’m a firm believer that a person should try to read outside of the genre they write in. I think that doing so makes one a better writer in whatever genre they’re focused on.

Long story short, after the first chapter I had to read the next. I didn’t finish reading it in just one day like Wendy did. The book was competing with the single greatest sporting event ever created for my attention. However, when I woke up this morning at 4:30 a.m., I knew I wasn’t going to get back to sleep until I finished reading it. Yeah, the book is that good.

It is critically important that a writer writes what they know, regardless of genre. Kimberly understands her subject matter very well. It’s just a small scene in the book, but one of the minor characters suffers a heart attack. Kimberly somehow knows enough about heart attacks to know that a vascular surgeon won’t operate on a patient who has just suffered a heart attack because the heart is too weak at that time. It is always preferable for the patient to wait a few days to let the heart regain a little bit of strength before performing open-heart surgery. Like I said, it’s just a small scene, but it was very accurate. There were several scenes in her book which were equally on point. Scenes like that give her writing credibility and power.

I think that I will get the chance to see Kimberly again in about a month at a writers’ conference I believe we’re both registered for. I hope so anyway. I look forward to comparing notes with her about where she drew her plot from.

Despite feeling my testosterone slip away like a boat leaving a safe harbor, I have to admit that if other romance novels are this good, I just might read another.

Before my maleness completely fades into obscurity I think that I’ll go turn March Madness on again.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What, do you think I'm stupid?

Rep. Kevin Garn, a top leader in the Utah House of Representatives recently disclosed that 25 years ago he sat naked in a hot tub with a former employee. He was 28 at the time and she was 15. Subsequently, in 2002, he paid her $150,000 to keep it quiet. He is now claiming that “nothing happened” while they sat naked in the hot tub. I’m guessing Mr. Garn that you also believe Bill Clinton really “didn’t inhale.”

Why is it that so many politicians believe their constituents are so stupid that they will believe whatever they say? When you run for office you are asking for my trust. You are asking me to trust that you will work in my best interests. Mr. Garn, let me make one thing very clear, I DO NOT TRUST YOU. I am a republican, I am one of your constituents, and we share other things in common which might make you think that my vote is yours. It isn’t, and that ought to worry you.

The victim in this incident, Sheryl Maher, claims that you are not telling the truth. You need to better define what “nothing happened,” means. Lest we forget, Bill Clinton testified, “I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” Of course his definition didn’t cover fellatios.

There’s one thing that I’m very sure of Mr. Garn. Something did happen in that hot tub. Inappropriate actions also happened before and most likely after that incident. According to Ms. Maher, alcohol was involved. Did you give alcohol to an underage minor? Do you consider that to be “nothing?” She says there was touching involved. She intimates that you like massage. You state, “we did not have any sexual contact…” Are you speaking solely of that time in the hot tub or does that comment mean, ”Never at any time, was there ever any sexual contact?” Just so you know, I define “sexual contact” as any contact between the two of you that had any sexual connotation behind it. She could’ve been fully clothed working as your employee in the Pegasus Record shop and you not-so-innocently brush up against her body.

As you can see Mr. Garn there are several crimes, some felonious I believe, involved here.

You further erode my trust when you skirt Federal Election law by paying money to keep her quiet. According to The Deseret News , “Federal law defines a reportable expenditure as "a purchase, payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit or gift of money or anything of value made to influence a federal election."

Even if the expenditure is not paid by the campaign directly, but instead by the candidate or a supporter, laws still generally require disclosure of the spending. Laws also require a declaration of the money spent as a contribution to the campaign.
While not commenting specifically about Garn, Federal Election Commission spokesman Christian Hilland said Friday, "Essentially, whenever a campaign spends money — whether it's permissible or not permissible — it is required to be reported on their FEC report."’

Though you didn’t return calls seeking comment, your wife, Tanya, states that the payment was made subsequent to the 2002 election. However, you did run for office after 2002 right? And that hush money definitely affected those elections right?

In my opinion sir, you are a pig. You are desperately hoping that we, your constituents, will simply believe that the hot tub was a one-time fluke, that nothing preceded it, nothing followed it, and nothing happened while you were both naked in it. How stupid do you think I am?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Triumphs and Tragedies

Triumphs and Tragedies – Twenty-five aspects of the life of a Liverpool Sailor is the latest book by Peter Wright.

In Triumphs and Tragedies, Peter shares with us 25 different slices of his life, each compelling, and each with a lesson to be learned. Peter was born in July 1926 near Liverpool, England. His first slice of life starts, “When I was ten, my father drowned in the cold grey waters of the North Sea. His death bankrupted the family and left me, the third-born, feebly struggling in an attempt to establish my identity, and some kind of self-value. During the next forty years, I occasionally allowed my spirit to travel eastward to his murky burial place ninety feet beneath the surface. And there I lingered, deliberating death’s mute cloak that blocks out all reason, invites recrimination, and often cruelly foils closure. I asked his spirit, not why he had ignored me, but rather, what had I done to deserve his disdain.”

Peter’s writing is not just tight and concise, but also very emotionally moving. He has the heart of a poet and gets maximum impact from each word. Reading his book I was reminded of the words of Mark Twain, “If I had had more time, I would’ve written a shorter book.”

After his father’s death, Peter was sent to a Catholic boarding school. His mother had hoped that he would become the first English pope. Her dreams were not realized however as Peter opted to follow in his father’s footsteps and set out to sea in the Merchant Navy.

Wanderlust took Peter to many different ports of call across the world. Social drinking turned into Alcoholism. “One night while at anchor off the port of Boma, eighty miles up the Congo River, I was handed a gourd filled with tombo, native gin distilled from coconuts. I overcame the appalling smell and discovered that two or three gulps transformed me from a shy, retiring boy into a real sailor.” By the top of the next page he writes, “My days started at with a Johnny Walker. At another drink got me to work. I had a bottle in my desk. Lunch went from 11:30 until 1:30, and at 4 p.m. I decided to go home early…Like a sailor without a compass on a ship without a rudder, I was heading for shoal water.”

Friends encouraged him to go to AA, and at the encouragement of his wife, he entered into rehab. The journey from alcoholic to sobriety was long and arduous, but with the help of family and friends, and God, he has since remained sober for many years. He has now learned to accept life on its terms and to live “one day at a time.”

After finishing Peter’s compelling autobiography I asked him a few questions:

Me - When the reader finishes the last chapter what do you hope is going through their mind?

Peter - After putting down my book I hope that they are thinking "What a great collection of stories. I've got to tell my friends." I imagine too that they are are wondering if thet are all true. "Pari Evans" is a figment of my imagination, but The first part of that story actually did happen.

Me - I suspect that you're a fan of poetry, are you? If so, who is your favorite poet? Why?

Peter - I worried about and finally revered Francis Thompson,s The Hound of Heaven, an epic piece about his own redemption from addiction to opium. I found it a bastion of support during my own drinking days. Otherwise I have no wit for modern poetry. Kipling makes me chuckle.

Me - What made these 25 vignettes so compelling to you that they were included in the book?

Peter - All of these stories are significant milestones. There are other's yet untold. Most are nostalgic. All, for whatever reason, beg to be told. Somewhere in each, I have a message.

Me - Why should anyone part with their hard earned cash and precious time to read your book? Sell it to us!

Peter - I tell prospecive buyers that "T & T" is a bedtime book.The stories are short. All are quite gripping in their own way. All except one is true. Thery carve out the life and times of a Liverpool Sailor; taking on life a day at a time and enjoying every one.

Me - What is the next project you are working on?

Peter - Something quite different. I've started a novel I'm calling "The Gentle Art of the Healer" It's a love story highlighting the interesting life Gloria and I led from 1983 until 2009. She was a wonderful psychotherapist. I hope to show her off for what she was - A Giver of Love and spiritual treasures.

Me - Any advice or words of wisdom you have to share with other aspiring writers?

Peter - For beginning writers like myself, I urge them to learn to love the English language. Use it simply and boldly. Write every day and Please don't give up. Write about what you know.

Thank you Peter for giving us a brief glimpse into your soul.

If you’re interested, you can buy a copy of Triumphs and Tragedies by clicking here .

Monday, March 1, 2010

My favorite time of year

Some people like Christmas, others prefer Halloween or perhaps Thanksgiving. Trust me, I am a fan of all those, but nothing warms the cockles of my heart quite like March Madness. It is the single greatest sporting event in the world. Coming on the heels of the Olympics you might consider that statement heresy. I loved the Olympics, but I am not alone in my love of the purest of all tournaments.

Apparently urologists are big fans of the tournament also.

My family takes this most magical of events very seriously. Bragging rights for the entire year are on the line. How do you pick your teams? I used to read every article I could find, visit the websites of Vegas bookmakers to see who they like (no I don't gamble on the tournament, but they don't lose money on these tournaments and therefore can be a source of valuable information). I have found on-line models that run complex algorithms that boldly declare they are right over 95% of the time.

Year after year, I still lose to my children. Some of them compare mascots and decide which mascot could beat up the other mascot. Yes, I lose to them too. However, they also will occasionally try to find an edge to win the all important tournament.

Here is a picture of Rhys speaking with his consultant.

Here's a picture of him and his consultant after he realized the consultant gave him bad information. Word to the wise, if your consultant is willing to be paid in bananas you might want to go elsewhere.

My daughter, Aubrey, took a more direct approach, believing she just needed the right motivation to get her husband, Curtis, to give her the right answers.

This is my youngest son Colby, back when he was my little Shaolin warrior.

Last year he couldn't find a Buddha to seek enlightenment from so he made do with what he had.

How will you be picking your teams this year?