An Ordinary Man (Want What You Have: Part 1)

Here begins a seven-part series from a book-in-progress whose provisional title is Want What You Have: A Guide to Contentment. I liked my original title better, but my wife nixed it, saying neither she nor anyone else would buy it. That original title was How To Fail Successfully. On the internet I looked up the phrase “how to fail” and was not very surprised to find not a single book bearing this title. By contrast, the three words “how to succeed” are featured in hundreds of titles.

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Wash Your Bowl (Want What You Have: Part 2)

Joel ben Izzy, in his wonderful book The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness, relates a Zen story he had often heard but never understood. It seems a student seeking enlightenment went to visit a great Zen master. Knowing he must let the master speak first, the student waited. But the master did not speak and for a long time they sat in silence. Eventually the master offered the student a bowl of rice, and quietly they ate.

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The Book of Life (Want What You Have: Part 4)

We are marvelous creatures, fearfully and wonderfully made. Yet so much of what we do is utterly mundane. These ten amazing fingers of ours—how do we use them? Even brain surgeons and concert pianists must brush their teeth, eat, bathe, wipe—an endless diurnal series of basic maintenance tasks. The contrast between the banality of our lives and the glory for which we seem destined is a staggering paradox that faces us squarely every day, and increasingly as we grow older.

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Contentment (Want What You Have: Part 5)

The nice thing about ordinary life is that there’s so much of it. It’s all around us, all the time, so if we can actually learn to like it, we’re home free. We’ll never lack for anything ever again. We’ll have something the Bible refers to as “great gain” and puts in the same category as godliness: contentment (1 Tim. 6:6).

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Living Life to the Full (Want What You Have: Part 6)

We have this expression “living life to the full.” But how can we live life to the full when life is, apparently, so full of mundane moments and plain things and unremarkable events? Happiness is only possible in the present moment, yet the overwhelming majority of our moments are utterly ordinary. Therefore, if we want to be happy, we must learn to love the ordinary. It’s good to have lofty dreams and aspirations, but if we let future goals so control us that they overshadow our present reality, we will not be happy.

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The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason

Excerpts from The Blue Umbrella

Chapter One

Not many people are killed by lightning.

Zac’s mother was.

Zachary Sparks, though small for ten years old, had a look of perpetual astonishment that made him seem larger than life. His eyes were nearly the biggest part of him, round and wide, and his eyebrows had a natural arch as if held up with invisible strings. His voice was high and excitable and his whole body seemed full of little springs. Even his hair, fiery red and frizzy, looked as if he was the one hit by lightning. Everything about Zac Sparks was up, up, up.

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The Mystery of Marriage

A marriage, or a marriage partner, may be compared to a great tree growing right up through the center of one’s living room. It is just there, and it is huge, and everything has been built around it, and wherever one happens to be going––to the fridge, to bed, to the bathroom, or out the front door––the tree has to be taken into account. It cannot be gone through; it must respectfully be gone around. It is somehow bigger and stronger than oneself. True, it could be chopped down, but not without tearing the house apart. And certainly it is beautiful, unique, exotic; but also, let’s face it, it is at times an enormous inconvenience.

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