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Showing posts from 2014

If You Think You Are Beaten, You Are

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This short poem is a powerful reminder that our thoughts are the architects of our destiny. "Thinking" by Walter D. Wintle If you think you are beaten, you are If you think you dare not, you don't, If you like to win, but you think you can't It is almost certain you won't. If you think you'll lose, you've lost For out of the world we find, Success begins with a fellow's will It's all in the state of mind. If you think you are outclassed, you are You've got to think high to rise, You've got to be sure of yourself before You can ever win a prize. Life's battles don't always go To the stronger or faster man, But soon or late the man who wins Is the man WHO THINKS HE CAN!

This Little Girl Just Restored My Faith in Humanity...

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This little girl started a dance party at an NYC Subway stop...and it restored my faith in humanity. Watch the video below!

Do You Have Room for the Savior?

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This is one of my favorite Christmas songs. It has a powerful message. "Do You Have Room" Lyrics They journeyed far, a weary pair They sought for shelter from the cold night air Some place where she could lay her head Where she could give her babe a quiet bed Was there no room? No corner there? In all the town a spot someone could spare? Was there no soul come to their aid? A stable bare was where the family stayed. Chorus: Do you have room for the Savior? And do you seek Him anew? Have you a place for the one who lived and died for you? Are you as humble as a shepherd boy Or as wise as men of old? Would you have come that night? Would you have sought the light? Do you have room? A star arose, a wondrous light A sign from God -- this was the holy night. And yet so few would go to see The babe who came to rescue you and me. This child divine is now a King; The gift of life to all the world He brings And all mankin

Insecurity: The Greatest Threat to Progress

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A Sculpture of Christ by Angela Johnson Some time ago, I went to a presentation on leadership given by Jonathan Johnson, the President of the More Good Foundation. He made a very strong point when he said that failures in leadership and in organizations all seem to stem from one thing: insecurity. “The greatest single personnel issues that I have ever faced [within organizations],” said Jonathan, “…have come because of…insecurity. Insecurity fosters emotional responses, selfish ideals [but] if you know who you are, is there a need to be insecure?” He then discussed, in detail, a talk by Spencer W. Kimball entitled Jesus: The Perfect Leader , from which I pull this awesome quote: Jesus knew who he was and why he was here on this planet. That meant he could lead from strength rather than from uncertainty or weakness.   Jesus operated from a base of fixed principles or truths rather than making up the rules as he went along. Thus, his leadership style was not only correct, but

So You Want to Publish A Book? Here's How...

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"Books Don't Create Movements, Movements Create Books" Some time ago, I had the incredible opportunity to speak at TEDx in Sarasota, Florida. The title of my talk was "Books Don't Create Movements, Movements Create Books." In my presentation, I shared some ideas on how to start a movement that will help you achieve your dreams and I even reveal my own childhood dream...

When Nature Wants A Man - by Angela Morgan

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This inspiring poem is a powerful reminder that our obstacles in life are the very things which make us stronger and wiser. When Nature Wants A Man by Angela Morgan When Nature wants to drill a man,  And thrill a man, And skill a man. When Nature wants to mould a man  To play the noblest part; When she yearns with all her heart  To create so great and bold a man  That all the world shall praise – Watch her method, watch her ways!  How she ruthlessly perfects  Whom she royally elects; How she hammers him and hurts him,  And with mighty blows converts him Into trial shapes of clay which only Nature understands While his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands! How she bends, but never breaks,  When his good she undertakes. . . .  How she uses whom she chooses  And with every purpose fuses him,  By every art induces him To try his splendour out – Nature knows what she's about. When Nature wants to take a man, 

The Legend of the Northern Lights

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"If you look upward and fight onward, you can conquer the Great Mountain." I'm not sure if I can take credit for this story because it was given to me in a moment of pure inspiration. I was camping in Arizona, and staring up at the stars with some friends when it suddenly struck me (True story. I have witnesses!). Using the light of the fire, I sat up and hurriedly wrote it down. I've included it in my book, Your Life Isn't For You , with the sincere hope that it will help guide others forward. I've worked on the video featured below for a long time. If it inspires you, please—as a special favor to me—share it with others. I am profoundly grateful for  Ashley Collett (for creating such amazing illustrations) and for David Tolk (for allowing me to use his beautiful music).

Go To The Limits of Your Longing

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Flare up like a flame... My wife recently showed me this poem. I think its absolutely wonderful. They come from Rainer Maria Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God "Go To The Limits of Your Longing"  God speaks to each of us as he makes us, then walks with us silently out of the night. These are the words we dimly hear: You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing. Embody me. Flare up like a flame and make big shadows I can move in. Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final. Don't let yourself lose me. Nearby is the country they call life. You will know it by its seriousness. Give me your hand.

Benjamin Franklin Invented "Paying It Forward"

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Ben Franklin and "Pay It Forward" This totally blows my mind, but Benjamin Franklin essentially invented the concept of "paying it forward," as we know it. In a letter to Benjamin Webb , Franklin wrote this: "I do not pretend to give such a deed; I only lend it to you. When you [...] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro' many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money. Although he was the son of an impoverished candle-maker, Ben grew to become one of the wealthiest men in America—yet he never forgot his roots and constantly strove to better society. He founded America's first hospital, organized the world's first fire department, and dedicated the re

Suicide & The Hope of God's Light

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"I realized that it is part of our condition as mortals to sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by darkness..." As someone who struggled (and occasionally still struggles) with suicidal thoughts and feelings, this wonderful video hit really close to home. I am so grateful for the people who made it. "Many of us have wondered if God knows us or if He even exists. Todd was someone who made fun of people who thought God was real, and he wasn’t surprised when he didn’t get an immediate answer to a prayer. But could God be giving us small but obvious answers? And how patient do we need to be to get those answers?"

Children With Down Syndrome Answer A Mother's Question...

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"My baby has Down Syndrome..." If any of you know about my family life, you'll know that I have a tender spot in my heart for those who have "disabilities." In this heartwarming video, 15 people with Down syndrome share a message to a future mother. I still have tears in my eyes...

A Touching Story From the American Revolutionary War

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The surrender of Cornwallis In a wonderful speech about American history, David McCullough, author of 1776 and John Adams , shared a powerful story about General George Washington's troops, after they had suffered several heavy defeats: The next morning a unit from Pennsylvania rode in—militiamen, among whom was a young officer named Charles Willson Peale, the famous painter. He walked among these ragged troops of Washington’s who had made the escape across from New Jersey and wrote about it in his diary. He said he’d never seen such miserable human beings in all his life—starving, exhausted, filthy. One man in particular he thought was just the most wretched human being he had ever laid eyes on. He described how the man’s hair was all matted and how it hung down over his shoulders. The man was naked except for what they called a blanket coat. His feet were wrapped in rags, his face all covered with sores from sickness. Peale was studying him when, all of a sudden, he realiz

Frederick Douglass & The Secret Behind Success

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Self-Made Men? In 1895, Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave and abolitionist leader, gave a phenomenal speech titled "Self-Made Men." It it, Douglass shares  the secret behind successful men and women: I am certain that there is nothing good, great or desirable which man can possess in this world, that does not come by some kind of labor of physical or mental, moral or spiritual. A man, at times, gets something for nothing, but it will, in his hands, amount to nothing. What is true in the world of matter, is equally true in the world of the mind. Without culture there can be no growth; without exertion, no acquisition; without friction, no polish; without labor, no knowledge; without action, no progress and without conflict, no victory. A man that lies down a fool at night, hoping that he will waken wise in the morning, will rise up in the morning as he laid down in the evening. …  From these remarks it will be evident that, allowing only ordinary ability and op

God Is A Weaver

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While reflecting on my life this past year, I was reminded of this poem. It's a reminder that although we can't always see the full picture of our lives, God is making it into something beautiful. The Weaver My life is but a weaving Between my Lord and me, I cannot choose the colors He worketh steadily. Oftimes He weaveth sorrow, And I in foolish pride Forget He sees the upper And I, the underside. Not till the loom in silent And the shuttles cease to fly Shall God unroll the canvas And explain the reason why. The dark threads are as needful In the Weaver's skillful hand As the threads of gold and silver In the pattern He has planned. - Author Unknown

Ralph Waldo Emerson & the Power of Reading

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Ralph Waldo Emerson I love these words by Ralph Waldo Emerson on the power of reading: "Consider what you have in the smallest chosen library. A company of the wisest and wittiest men that could be picked out of all civil countries, in a 1000 years, have set in best order the results of their learning and wisdom. The men themselves were hid and inaccessible, solitary, impatient of interruption, fenced by etiquette; but the thought which they did not uncover to their bosom friend is here written out in transparent words to us, the strangers of another age."

This Story Will Lead You to Hidden Treasure!

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Searching for hidden treasure... A story is told of a man who sold his home and farm to a small family in order to fund his quest for hidden treasure. After years of looking through cities, deserts, jungles, and miles of wilderness, the treasure-seeker grew old, sick, poor, and utterly discouraged. Giving into his depression, the old man threw himself into a mighty river, ending both his quest and his life. Halfway around the world, the family who had bought the land from the treasure-seeker were carefully cultivating it. One day, while digging in the ground, they came across a most peculiar stone. Lifting it into the light they discovered that it was a diamond—one of the largest in the world. Unbeknownst to him, the treasure-seeker's former home had been built atop a massive deposit of diamonds and precious jewels. The greatest treasures in life are often "hidden" in our own backyard.

"Life Is Like A Piano"

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I recently stumbled across this quote and I absolutely love it! If anyone knows the original source please let me know. "Life is like a piano, the white keys represent happiness and the black show sadness. But as you go through life's journey remember that the black keys also create music."

It's Easy To Say No To Life

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Antigone I saw a production of Jean Anouilh's Antigone tonight. I was struck by these words spoken by King Creon: "It is easy to say no. To say yes, you have to sweat and roll up your sleeves and plunge both hands into life up to the elbows. It is easy to say no, even if saying no means death. All you have to do is to sit still and wait. Wait to go on living; wait to be killed. That is the coward's part." Saying yes to life is hard work—but it is so rewarding!

The Seasons of Life | Parker Palmer

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Years ago, I was given an article written by Parker Palmer that revolutionized my outlook on life and helped me move forward. The article comes from his book, To Know As We Are Known . I thought you might enjoy reading a few snippets. Seasons is a wise metaphor for the movement of life, I think. It suggests that life is neither a battlefield nor a game of chance but something infinitely richer, more promising, more real. The notion that our lives are like the eternal cycle of the seasons does not deny the struggle or the joy, the loss of the gain, the darkness or the light, but encourages us to embrace it all—and to find in all of it opportunities for growth .   WINTER   Despite all appearances, of course, nature is not dead in winter—it has gone underground to renew itself and prepare for spring. Winter is a time when we are admonished, and even inclined, to do the same for ourselves.   Until we enter boldly into the fears we most want to avoid, those fears will dominate

I Want To Be Hans Hubermann

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Hans Hubermann and Liesel Meminger In what is probably the most delicious and heart-breaking book I have ever read , I met a man—a fictional, yet true man—named Hans Hubermann. If I become a man like Hans Hubermann, I will consider my life a success. Hans Hubermann, a German living in Nazi-Germany, is the foster father of Liesel Meminger, the main character of The Book Thief . During World War I, Hans' life was saved by a Jew. Because of this, Hans consciously decides to not join the Nazi party. In the book, Hans quietly—yet daringly—resists the hatred of the Nazis while simultaneously offering beautiful acts of kindness. At one point, a group of Jews are marched are marched through the town: When they arrived in full, the noise of their feet throbbed on top of the road. Their eyes were enormous in their starving skulls. And the dirt. The dirt was molded to them. Their legs staggered as they were pushed by soldiers’ hands—a few wayward steps of forced running before the

Turning a Famine Into a Feast

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Feast or Famine? A story is told about a horde of locusts that devastated certain parts of South Africa. The landowners did everything they could to prevent the locusts from eating their crops, but all of their efforts were useless. The feasting of the locusts had completely devastated the land. Shortly afterwards, the horde of locusts died and their bodies were plowed into the land. And in a twist of absolute irony, the once destructive locusts became the fertilizer for the best crops the farmers ever had. In like manner, our tragedies—though devastating and destructive—often contain the hidden potential for growth. Just as winter is essential for summer, tragedy is essential to an eventual triumph.

Disturb Us, Lord

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Disturb Us, Lord Sir Francis Drake, an adventurer who accomplished much during his fifty-five years of life, is attributed with writing this poem. His words (along with the adventurous life he led) inspire me to get off my couch and live less comfortably! Disturb us, Lord, when We are too pleased with ourselves, When our dreams have come true Because we dreamed too little, When we arrived safely Because we sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess We have lost our thirst For the waters of life; Having fallen in love with life, We have ceased to dream of eternity And in our efforts to build a new earth, We have allowed our vision Of the new Heaven to dim. Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, To venture on wilder seas Where storms will show Your mastery; Where losing sight of land, We shall find the stars. We ask you to push back The horizons of our hopes; And to push

Losers Make Excuses; Winners Make Progress

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I've been reading a book by Brian Tracy called No Excuses . In it, he makes this amazing point: Losers make excuses; winners make progress. Now, how can you tell if your favorite excuse is valid or not? It's simple. Look around and ask, "Is there anyone else who has my same excuse who is successful anyway?"  When you ask this question, if you are honest, you will have to admit that there are thousands and even millions of people who have had it far worse than you have who have gone on to do wonderful things with their lives. And what thousands and millions of others have done, you can do as well—if you try.

How to Find Hidden Treasure

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The Farmer and His Sons This wonderful little story comes from Aesop's Fables; it tells about the true source of fortune: A Father, being on the point of death, wished to be sure that his sons would give the same attention to his farm as he himself had given it. He called them to his bedside and said, "My sons, there is a great treasure hid in one of my vineyards." The sons, after his death, took their spades and mattocks and carefully dug over every portion of their land. They found no treasure, but the vines repaid their labor by an extraordinary and superabundant crop.

The Legend of the Saguaro

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The Saguaro Cactus It is said by some that the Saguaro cactus of the American Southwest are actually the spirits of our ancestors. They stand in the desert as watchful guardians—providing shade and protecting the life-giving water. Their arms point heavenward, as if in supplication to the Creator for the light and moisture which they receive from  Him. They are living monuments of the past and examples for the future. In our walking through life, they remain steadfast and immoveable. They are a reminder of the influence of our ancestors and that our true strength comes from the Creator. May we ever look to the Saguaro and remember the steadfastness our ancestors. And may we, like them, reach heavenward for strength from the Creator.

The New Mother Teresa is...a Man?

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His story reminded me of Mother Teresa. I thought he was an internet hoax. No one could possibly be that good. No one could be that kind. No one could be so self-sacrificing. But he's real. And he's inspiring. His name is Elder Dobri (or Dobri Dobrev). He's a 99-year-old Bulgarian man who lost most of his hearing in World War II and currently spends his days begging for money. But here's the most remarkable thing: the money isn't for himself. He gives all of it to orphanages and churches. I first learned about him through The Meta Picture (the images from his life are inspiring) and then confirmed the story on Snopes.com . He's real— unbelievably real. I often marvel at individuals who are able to cast off the world and devote their lives to the service of others. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Elder Dobri: "We have two wills, one from God, the other from the devil. And we are in war in our minds."  Elder Dobri is definitely

Leonardo da Vinci's Love for Life

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I've been reading a most fascinating book. It's called Learning from Leonardo by Fritjof Capra. In this book, Capra draws upon his intimate knowledge of Leonardo da Vinci's personal notebooks to demonstrate the sheer genius of da Vinci's scientific achievements. Truly, in nearly every conceivable field of study, Leonardo da Vinci was a jaw-dropping genius. As I was reading, my attention was immediately drawn to a quote by da Vinci: "Qui non estima la vita non la merita." "One who does not respect life does not deserve it." Ouch. I've thought a lot about that little quote. I thought about how eight years ago, I was so miserable and depressed. In the days leading up to my suicide attempt, I felt like my life had been completely drained of color. I felt like life was pointless, painful, and demeaning. I didn't respect the life I had been given and I failed to see the abundance of life that surrounded me. In contrast, Leonardo cle

Does The Scarlet Letter REALLY Represent Adultery?

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My favorite book is The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and it's also my favorite love story. Oh yes, it's a love story. The Scarlet Letter is set in 17th Century New England and tells the story of Hester Prynne, a woman that is punished for adultery and forced to wear a scarlet letter 'A'. Hester's adulterous affair had produced a child, and unbeknownst to the townsfolk, the father of that child was Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. Hawthorne is a master of symbolism and his book is filled to bursting with wisdom and insight about sin, guilt, and human nature. I read it at least once a year and each time I'm struck by new insights. Last October, I had a thought occur to me which I had never before considered: does the scarlet letter represent adultery? We know that it represents adultery for Hester's Puritan society, but is that what it means to her? Think about it: Hester wears the scarlet letter for the rest of her life—until the day she di

The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish

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In 1833, Russian author, Alexander Pushkin , wrote a fairy tale about an old fisherman who captures a golden fish. In exchange for freedom, the golden fish promises the old man that he will grant any of his wishes. The fisherman tells the fish that he does not want anything and immediately sets it free. When he gets home, he tells his wife what had happened and she gets very angry with him. She reminds her husband about their broken trough and tells him to go back and ask the fish for a new one. When the husband asks for a new trough the golden fish happily grants his request. Realizing that the golden fish is magic, the wife begins to ask for things without restraint: a new house, a palace, to become a noble lady, to become the ruler of her region, to become the tsarina, and to become the Ruler of the Sea so she could control the golden fish completely. As her husband asks for each of these items, the sea becomes more and more tempestuous. When the old man asks that his wi

C. S. Lewis, "The Silver Chair," and Addiction

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Not long ago, I read C. S. Lewis' book The Silver Chair and stumbled across some pretty powerful symbolism: the Green Witch and the Silver Chair are symbols for addiction. In this chronicle of Narnia, two children—Eustace and Jill—are sent by Aslan to help rescue Rilian, a prince who has been put under the spell of the Green Witch.  Prince Rilian first encounters the Witch (although he doesn't know it) when she appears in the form of a snake. The snake is described "great, shining, and as green as poison." The snake kills Rilian's mother. "The Prince took his mother's death very hardly, as well he might," and Rilian frequently rode out into Narnia, seeking to kill the beast and avenge his mother's death. As time goes on, people begin to notice a change in Prince Rilian: "There was a look in his eyes as of a man who has seen visions." It is later revealed that Prince Rilian had given up his hunt for the snake and was being e

The Great Stone Face | Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of my favorite authors and his book, The Scarlet Letter , is unquestionably my all-time favorite novel. Hawthorne also had a great talent for writing powerful, symbolic short stories (read Young Goodman Brown —your life will never be the same). I recently read another of Hawthorne's stories entitled  The Great Stone Face . I could write half a dozen blog posts on this single story for it is filled with majestic , yet simplistic symbolism. The story tells about a young man named Ernest who grows up in a small, rural town (most likely in the state of New Hampshire). High on the cliff of a mountain near the town, formed out of a cluster of rock, was what appeared to be the face of a man. For countless centuries, this Great Stone Face had overlooked the valley like a titanic guardian. It was a happy lot for children to grow up to manhood or womanhood with the Great Stone Face before their eyes, for all the features were noble, and the expression

The Step to A New Life

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My Anasazi Blanket As some of you may know, I used to work at the Anasazi Foundation , a wilderness therapy program for at-risk youth. After five years and many memorable experiences, Anasazi had become my home away from home. When you first begin at Anasazi (either as an employee or as a client) you participate in what is called a "blanket stepping." Two blankets, one old and one new, are placed upon the earth. A SageWalker sits upon the old blanket and invites the other to sit across from them. On the old blanket, many sacred things are discussed, among them are the principles of forward and backward walking and an invitation to move forward. At it's core, walking forward is to make good choices that encourage us to love others and to have a heart at peace. Walking backwards is to make wrong choices that fill us with enmity and encourage a heart at war. When we symbolically leave things behind on the old blanket, we then step onto the new blanket, symboli

Mother Teresa and Spiritual Hunger

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"Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness." - Mother Teresa In doing some research about Mother Teresa, I was led to a beautiful speech written by Jeffrey R. Holland. Here is a selection of that talk: Some time ago I read an essay referring to “metaphysical hunger” in the world. The author was suggesting that the souls of men and women were dying, so to speak, from lack of spiritual nourishment in our time. That phrase, “metaphysical hunger,” came back to me last month when I read the many richly deserved tributes paid to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. One correspondent recalled her saying that as severe and wrenching as physical hunger was in our day—something she spent virtually her entire life trying to alleviate—nevertheless, she believed that the absence of spiritual strength, the paucity of spiritual nutrition, was an even more terrible hunger in the moder

Doubt and Pride

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I love the play Cyrano de Bergerac . It's a wonderful love story told in beautiful, passionate prose (and it's also the inspiration for the movie Megamind— another favorite of mine—but this isn't the place for that). Not long ago, I was reading Cyrano  and I came across a rather intriguing line: This new-born babe, an infant Hercules! Strong enough at birth to strangle those Two serpents – Doubt and Pride. I thought about that for a while. Two serpents: Doubt and Pride. I love symbolism in Greek Mythology, yet I had never heard these serpents being referred to as Doubt and Pride. But come to think of it, the serpents of doubt and pride have a close connection with another serpent— the serpent. For it was Satan who appeared to Adam and Eve in the form of a snake, tempting them to eat the fruit of the tree—contrary to the commandment of God. In tempting them to eat the fruit, he was tempting them to doubt God. Doubting God is only possible when we think that God

Enjoy the Present Moment

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Every night, my wife and I take turns and spend 15 minutes sharing spiritual thoughts. Our spiritual thoughts don't have to spring from the same sources. Oftentimes, we'll mix it up and draw from a wide variety of sources. Last night, my wife shared a paragraph from a book that she has been reading. "I love this book!" she said excitedly (yes, we're both nerds). The book is called Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm by Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the paragraph that Kim shared with me: We cannot enjoy life if we spend our time and energy worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow. If we're afraid all the time, we miss out on the wonderful fact that we're alive and can be happy right now. In everyday life, we tend to believe that happiness is only possible in the future. We're always looking for the "right" conditions that we don't yet have to make us happy.

Turning Our Problems into Pearls

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I've just finished reading Joel Osteen's book Break Out!: Five Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life . It's a great, inspiring read and I'd recommend it to anyone (Christian or not). Although I'm not a member of Osteen's Lakewood Church, I'm a big fan. He's a gifted speaker, a talented writer, and a likable guy. He offers some very powerful insights   Towards the end of his book he shared several thoughts about our problems becoming pearls that I really enjoyed. In the last chapters, Joel shared a pretty keen observation about pearls. He said that pearls are born of an irritation—a problem. Oysters feed on the bottom of the ocean and, occasionally, a grain of sand will get lodged inside the Oyster's mouth. In an attempt to rid itself of the irritation, the Oyster will coat the grain of sand with a secretion (a type of lacquer) and rub it into a beautiful, perfect pearl. Joel suggested that our problems are sometimes

Is God the Sun?

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Today, I'd like to share a rather profound short story called "The Coffee House of Surat." It was written Leo Tolstoy, a famous Russian author. In this short story, a collection of various travelers and nationalities converge in a coffee house in Surat, India. Among those gathered is a theologian turned atheist, a heathen slave, a Brahmin, a Jewish broker, and Catholic missionary, a Protestant minister, a Turkish Muslim, and a host of other nationalities and believers.  After ordering a drink, the atheist looked at his slave and asked him if he believed in God. Without any hesitation, the slave said he believed in God and quickly pulled out a small, wooden idol that he had carried with him since he was a child.  “There," said he, "that is the God who has guarded me from the day of my birth. Every one in our country worships the fetish tree, from the wood of which this God was made." It was as though the small wooden idol were a detonator in a pl