The first thing to go is the reading

If you are not at peace, what happened? What caused you to be sad, angry, confused, hurt?

The answer is not that asshole on the freeway who cut you off. Or your boss looked at you with a funny look. Or that lady in the checkout line at the supermarket. Or some politician said something.

And it’s certainly not the poorly designed bumpers on all of the cars in front of you on the 405 during rush hour on a day long ago. (Funny story about that one. I will have to write it some other time, because it was a turning point in my life.)

The cause of life in hell is never a factor outside of you.

No, the cause is simple: maintenance. You are in hell because you did not maintain your spiritual condition.

Anderson had a diagnostic tool that is damn near infallible. He would ask about reading. You’re complaining and blaming and pissed off. What are you reading?

Then he would say:

“The first thing to go is the reading.”

When you are in good shape mentally you are doing the work necessary to maintain that condition.

  • Talk to God, not to yourself.
  • Consciously seeking out external input to keep your mentality focused on the right stuff.

It’s easy to bullshit yourself about talking to God. All that happens in your head so you can lie to yourself and others about prayer.

So if you’re in hell, do a spot-check. Ask yourself: “When is the last time I cracked open a book?”

Odds are . . . You aren’t reading.

That’s why I keep this journal. I read a bit off the Kindle app. Then I reflect on it, and write a few words. Maybe it’s about the reading. Maybe it’s about something else.

This also works to get yourself out of the ditch. Grab a book immediately and read. Get back into maintenance mode. You will be surprised how fast it works.