Is it better to be ‘Shaken’ or ‘Unshakeable’ in quest for meaning and value?

Are they coincidences or hidden messages? That is what’s puzzling me.

I’m an avid reader/listener of audio books. They help me pass the time on my commute to and from work each day. Four of the last five books I’ve listened to have had some interesting similarities. Take for example the titles of the first two books, “Unshakeable” by Tony Robbins and “Shaken” by Tim Tebow. More about those in a minute.

The second two are “Angels and Demons” by Dan Brown and “Use of Force” by Brad Thor. Those books, thrillers published 17 years apart, both center on threats against the Vatican.

Getting back to the first two books, I couldn’t help but appreciate the irony of listening to “Unshakeable” followed by “Shaken.” That isn’t where the irony ended.

When I checked “Unshakeable” out of the library, I felt certain I was going to get some powerful, motivational, self-help advice from Robbins, who is an author, entrepreneur, philanthropist and life coach extraordinaire. I found a previous book of his that I listened to a while back to be very helpful. I prepared to be inspired and encouraged to accomplish great things.

What I got was basically a book for millionaires about how to get richer. It was all about wealth-building at a level far above my income and knowledge base. I did get some benefit out of it, but for the most part it was way above my head and my pay grade.

I was somewhat hesitant to listen to “Shaken” and only did so because I was between books that I had on hold at the library. I respect Tim Tebow as an outspoken brother in Christ, but I had to wonder how much motivation and inspiration a young, washed-up quarterback could give to an old guy like me. It turns out there was quite a bit.

“Shaken” was more about his faith journey than his adventures as a journeyman NFL quarterback. Sure, there were plenty of stories and antidotes about his rise to Heisman Trophy winner and being drafted by the Denver Broncos only to be cut loose to the NFL scrapheap a few years later. His story has plenty of ups and downs, not just in football but in many areas of life.

There are plenty of times when he was shaken by life’s twists and turns only to rebound stronger and more determined than before. He draws inspiration from the sick and disabled and in turn inspires them to great things. Although Tebow has been shaken in life, he has proven unshakeable in his love of God and commitment to his faith and love of others.

I clearly learned more about life from the young, has-been quarterback than I did from the elder motivational expert. I don’t mean this as anything bad about Robbins. It means I really didn’t take the time to figure out what his book was about and who his target audience is before listening to it. No doubt if you have the resources, his knowledge and inspiration will make a big difference for you. It didn’t speak to me. Tebow did.

People pay thousands of dollars to attend seminars put on by Robbins. Almost anyone could go to the minor league baseball park where Tebow is toiling on his new dream of playing in the Majors and see him play for just a few bucks. They can get photos, autographs and probably a handshake. People can attend events put on by his foundation or see him at various speaking engagements. More importantly, he is likely to pray with or for you or do something to lift you up.

Someday I’d like to be able to run with the big dogs like Robbins, but I can’t help but feel there is more personal and spiritual satisfaction working in the trenches with someone like Tebow where life is real and authentic and the smallest kind gesture can make a huge difference in someone’s life. I’d rather live boldly for Christ than to live life boldly. Clearly, the “Shaken” life is more meaningful than the “Unshakeable” one.

Moving on, I’d like to talk about the two thrillers I’ve been listening to. Neither one does anything for my spiritual life. They’re kind of my guilty pleasures. Sometimes in the world of fruits, vegetables and lean, white meat you need to be able to sneak a cookie or two. These are my cookies. OK, they’re more like deep-fried moon pies on a stick, but you get the picture.

I started listening to Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons” more than a month ago – once again while I was between books on hold at the library. It was published in 2000 and the library has multiple copies, so if I didn’t finish I knew I could easily come back to it. I didn’t finish. About half way through it Brad Thor’s newest thriller, “Use of Force,” came up and I paused Brown’s book and listen to Thor’s. One, I was eager to hear the newest adventure of his anti-terrorist agent Scot Harvath. Two, there is a waiting list for it and I can’t renew it, so I wanted to bull through it as quickly as I could. That, and just days before I got to meet Thor at a book signing at Murder By The Book in Houston, so I was extra motivated to dig into it.

Like I said before, both books center around preventing an attack on the Vatican. I can’t begin to tell you how dizzying it is to listen to two fast-paced thrillers with similar objectives. Fortunately I was able to come back to “Angels and Demons” and pick up the story without missing a beat.

So once more I find myself sitting here reviewing the coincidences and ironies of my choices of reading/listening material and wondering if there isn’t some hidden message inside of it. Perhaps it means my mind is craving the next thriller from the master of secret codes and hidden messages, Brad Meltzer. In the meantime, next up is a return to my lifelong favorite author, Clive Cussler, who has recently released “Nighthawk.”

I just hope that book doesn’t take place at the Vatican. If it does I’ll know beyond a doubt that God or someone is sending me a message or at least messing with my head.

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