Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs, Michael Duffy

5 of 5 stars  *****

This reader is thankful for the gift that is The President's Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity. Nancy Gibbs, along with Michael Duffy, compile information about past and present Presidents not known by the average citizen. Starting with Truman and Hoover and ending with Obama and Bush, W., the President's club explores its significance during modern times utilizing all living Presidents. This select population are the only ones capable of understanding what the existing President is going through, even though they are not privy to confidential circumstances unique to every term. 

The club is in existence from the inception of the United States' birth. Washington has the sole characteristic of being the lone member, at first, but he has future Presidents with whom to confer, confide, and console in John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Strong personalities usually give way to the need of sound advice when in that most high executive office. Democrats enlist Republicans and vice-a-versa to resolve issues not faced by the ordinary human being. The office becomes greater than the person.

A respect for those whom one knows little but from historical accounts and media headlines, inculcates itself into those who pick up this book and delve into its refreshing and astonishing pages. This reader is in a state of amazement after finishing this revealing non-fiction of a subject most interesting, the politics and human nature of those who accept the daunting task, President of the United States.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith (Goodreads Author), Claton Butcher (Narrator)

4 of 5 stars ****

This audiobook synchronizes with my other studies well. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit influences my daily activities, including prayers. I examine how much time I spend on pursuing my own personal desires during any given day as well as any daily rituals that become my habit. I evaluate whether or not my habits serve my efforts in achieving those desires. More importantly, James K. A. Smith's book makes me question the righteousness of my goals. The truth is, my habits are more self-serving than I am comfortable admitting. This excerpt from the book illustrates the lesson I use in my introspection, "Be careful what you worship; it will shape what you want and, therefore, what you make and how you work." 

The worship aspect of my life truly shapes who I am in that it reveals what and who I love. Smith refers to Proverbs 4:23 to eloquently express this, "Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it." This idea encompasses my total being, not just my intelligence. The author further explains why worship is natural drawing upon 1 John 4:19, "We love because He first loved us." Then Smith uses Aristotle's probing thoughts on this subject explaining that he who is pushed into the Universe out of love has a yearning to seek the source of that love. God is love. 1 John 4:8 asserts, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." God is always pulling us back toward Him.

Intelligence seems to obscure the way, at times, on that path back to the Creator. Following Christ Jesus assures me of remaining on the proper course. Christ says in the Gospel of John, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life." Jesus, the second person in the Trinity and, therefore, God, simply states that He is the way to eternal life by sincerely accepting Him as the one who first loved us. His dying on the cross for our sins demonstrates that love. The next sentence of John 14:6 is more explicit, "No one comes to the Father except through me."

Another valuable lesson from this book is the power of habit. Since we are much more than thinking machines, we need to engage our feelings and inspiration in healthy, desirable behaviors that keep us on track toward our goals. If that goal is to ultimately return to that source of love for all eternity, habits that keep us on the enlightened path are necessary. Knowledge, itself, cannot change our behavior. Our goal should be to do what God desires of us.

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit continues with the subjects of teaching how to love and discipleship. A lesson absorbs into the mind but application of that lesson must be put through the body. The desire to carry out the behavior is not instantaneous. In fact, thinking counters the culture of impulse, according to Smith. Correct repetition of a behavior can make it an action that requires little thought. A habit is born. Analysis of my habits and my goals tells me if these two important life lessons are aligned or not. It also tells me if I am unconsciously undermining myself. If so, I am frustrated and anxious. If not, I am in a state of peace. St. Augustine expresses this relationship in his Confessions, "You have made us for yourself and our heart is restless until it rests in you."