James Schreiner is a handyman. His daily routine involves fixing leaky roofs, hanging doors, loosening stubborn joints and saving souls. As his book title—The Art of Saving Your Soul, Through Prayer and Meditation—indicates, he is not just concerned with keeping your home in working order, but also with your spiritual well-being.
Saving one’s soul, for Mr. Schreiner, is not simply a skill one learns, as in the construction and painting trades in which he cut his teeth for decades, but an art form and a discipline that must be pursued daily with a free and eager heart. Accordingly, he has put together 365 messages—one for each day of the year and each consisting of about 200 words of encouragement, reassurance, guidance, and not a little urging.
The daily missives spring from a Christian space, with a strong sense of an ever-present Karma in one’s life. The author’s life changed when he came across the prayer of Saint Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life
He found that disciplining himself to follow—literally and in the real world—each and every line in it, he was able to repair his own soul and found it within himself to help others do the same.
“I do not intend to tell you who your God has to be,” he writes. “I give you the opportunity to find your God. My goal is to open your mind to the benefits of seeking God first thing in the morning. It is imperative that each individual spend a chosen amount of time talking to God. Equally important is your time spent listening to God. How do you know if the voice you are listening to is God’s? He is the soft gentle voice that you hear during the course of the day that says things like, ‘I do not think that is a good idea.’”
Mr. Schreiner does not proselytize, nor does he judge. He simply guides and encourages:
Only you can dance to your music.
Enjoy Life: God only made one of you.
You are responsible for your own happiness.
Stop playing the victim.
Bloom where you are planted. Be who you are.
Being a prisoner to things you cannot change is a storm you need to avoid.
None of these are startling and new revelations, but confronting them and others morning after morning, January through December, reading them each newly, and applying them in the real world instead of tucking them away once the morning coffee is finished and the day has started, can be an ongoing process of real benefit to the earnest reader.
You won’t find many books at the supermarket or online that are invitations to dialogue with a Higher Power or which speak on an immediate and kindly basis to the reader and whatever rung on the ladder of life he or she is found.
James Schreiner’s sincere and forthright book will find a welcome spot on many a nightstand and should prove its author a far more lasting legacy than all the windows, doors and roofs he has repaired.
Most anyone can learn to fix things, but only a good and trusted friend can fix a life.
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