Sometimes we get stuck seeing things our way. Would you like to see some things through another set of eyes? Maybe it will make you think and stretch or maybe just chuckle or shed a tear. Here is my world through my eyes...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Music 2011 #4: Libera

As the year progressed into summer I started thinking about Christmas music and wondered what new music would come out this year.  I was thinking which group I would love to see a Christmas album from and it was Libera!  Surprisingly it happened and I have been enjoying the album tremendously.  The only other album that had a chance to be a runner up was one by William Joseph that his web site said would be coming out this year, but alas it did not show up.  So Libera wins by default.  I will put a couple of the songs I enjoyed below, but know that the whole album is great. 

Carol of the Bells by Libera-- this video shows them singing in a forest.

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night by Libera--This video shows the group singing.

In Dulci Jubilo and Jubilate Deo by Libera--Video shows Nativity and other Christmas scenes.

Hope you have enjoyed their music and my four submissions of fine Christmas music this year.  Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas lights at Louis Ginter Botanical Garden

This year we were going over our holiday schedule a couple weeks ago and realized our daughter's girl scout troop was going to Louis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond to see the Christmas lights that they put up.  It was something I had never done before and being a lover of Christmas lights we decided to give it a visit at the same time.  I took a few pictures to share with you.  Hope you enjoy them!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What I've been reading #11

The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere
I enjoy reading a Christmas book or two when Christmas comes around.  Lisa's book club listed a book of one of this author's books to read for their meeting.  I noticed that she has written a number of Christmas books.  This particular one was the first one and was inspired by a song by the same title by a Christian group Newsong.  I was familiar with the song and enjoyed the book.  It is about a young boy whose mother is dieing and has only one more Christmas to live.  His teacher from school says something that leads him on a quest to get a present for his Mom that has lots of meaning.  It was a short read and not real intriguing but did touch the heart strings a couple times, which is just what I hope for in a Christmas book. 

Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan
My daughter Haleigh had been telling me for quite some time that this is a series that I would enjoy.  I had a number of other things to read but finally decided to ask her for the first book in what is now an 11 book series.  I must admit that I was surprised at how good it was.  It really does a good job of providing action and building the characters of the main people in the book.  Basically it is about a young orphan in about the twelfth century who has the opportunity to be a ranger but really wants to be a night.  He really works hard at his training and at key moments his creativity and training really come forward to show his talent.  This is a good moral book and though it does have violent action in it at times, it is not gory or overly detailed.  I recommend this book to those, including young people, who are looking for a good story to get into. 

The Mansion by Henry Van Dyke
I was watching the First Presidency Christmas Fireside the other day and President Monson mentioned a book I hadn't heard of that he likes to read before each Christmas season.  So I thought I would read it and found it very enjoyable.  It is similar to other classic Christmas books in that it reminds us of what is most important is that we need to give and serve and not just want and get.  But this one goes a little bit further and the point is that our heart must be in it for the right reasons and not just giving and serving so that we can look good or be admired by others.  I found it very enjoyable and a good reminder of something that often gets left out in modern Christmas celebrating.  It is a quick read and I would encourage everyone to read it as the season is upon us or even after Christmas.

Ranger's Apprentice: The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan
John Flanagan has done it again to continue Will's story along in his apprenticing to be a Ranger.  Once again he has made the characters likable as they prepare for a war with Morgareth and Will ends up saving the day in a realistic and honorable way and then ends up getting kidnapped and off to the North countries.  I am impressed with the excellent way that the good guy characters are portrayed where they will honorably do what they say even when tricked and then learn their lesson.  This is a good series if you like action from the middle ages and good characters who are really good and not using the techniques of the bad guys in an effort to do good, but instead stay firmly in the good guys camp. 

The Year Money Grew on Trees by Aaron R. Hawkins
This is a book that our family has been reading for a while.  This book would optimally be read by about 8-12 year olds but I purchased it for our family because it taught a lesson I wanted my daughter to be exposed to so she could learn more.  The idea is that earning money takes hard work.  In the story a boy is given the opportunity to take care of 100 apple trees and earn the money that he could use to purchase the land.  He learns a lot of lessons about apples, himself, salesmanship and other people.  It was good for our purposes but would have been better if our daughter was younger. 
"A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”
William Styron

Some of the books I've read this month have had that result.  A bit tired but glad for the trip.  That's better than the book that only succeeds in being a sleep aid each time you pick it up.  Enjoy reading!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Music 2011 #3: Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Surely some of the best Christmas music, especially in recent years, has been sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Over the last several years, since they have been doing a yearly Christmas concert with solo singing luminaries like Sissel, Natalie Cole and most recently David Archuleta, they have been putting out fantastic Christmas music.  This year as they prepared for their yearly Christmas special on PBS they were told that they are PBS's number one Holiday show.  In addition to the choir and guest singers they perform their Christmas concert with The Orchestra at Temple Square and the Bell Choir at Temple Square.  All together making a free concert that so many people want to attend that the tickets are given out in random drawings.

I had a friend who told me that he had requested tickets and was prepared to fly to Utah to attend the concert if he was lucky enough to get a ticket for him and his wife. 

A few years ago Mannheim Steamrollers were the Christmas music of choice for just about everywhere.  I really enjoy their music both Christmas and otherwise.  But in recent years they have been unsuccessful at coming out with anything new to enhance their great body of Christmas music.  Actually no one has been able to come  with much to replace them until the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has stepped into that void.  Now year after year the MTC as I call it has put out excellent Christmas music and a Christmas spectacle that is unmatched on T.V. and which comes out of DVD the following year.  Click here to read an articl that give more information about the choir.

The song I have been enjoying most of all from the Mormon Tabernacle choir is this one:

Carol to the King: Mormon Tabernacle Choir

There are plenty other great ones as well and I'll add a couple below.  Hope you enjoy the Christmas music!

Hark the Herald Angels Sing by Sissel and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Hallelujah Chorus by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Ring, Christmas Bells by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Music 2011 #2 Eclipse

Another new Christmas album that came out this year is by A fantastic Accappella group that I have been enjoying for a few years.  This is their second Christmas album and sixth album overall, it is called "It's Christmas Time"  The band is made up of six guys:
Paul Hansen

Kevin Jones
Jake Despain

James Case
Dan Kartchtner
Shayne Taylor
 They have been singing together for about ten years and really have a great sound.  They started singing together when they were students at Utah State University and have had a couple changes in personnel since.  The members of the group are almost all return missionaries for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having served from Bangkok Thailand to Vancouver Canada.  Most are married with children and all love to sing having long histories of singing individually and in groups.

 Here is a video with a very quick summary of the songs on the new Christmas album. It is only a minute long:

Here is a full version of one of their songs from the Christmas Album
Do You Hear What I Hear by Eclipse.

This last video is a promo video that has a sampling of several of their songs both Christmas and otherwise.  It is fun to get an eight minute smattering of the various types of music that they sing. 

Hope you enjoy their music as much as I do!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Manly Man Training #27: Root it out

Men have a reputation for overlooking, ignoring or accepting the way things are and showing little interest in making a change, particularly if the change might be painful.  It is true that there are exceptions among us, but nevertheless we sometimes can be slow to admit, accept or take responsibility for personal things that may need to be changed or improved. 

So what I am calling all Manly Men to do is to be honest in looking at yourself.  Open your eyes and see what needs to be changed (as I've said before, your wife can often get you started in seeing things that you've allowed yourself to be blinded to).  Accept that these things can only be taken care of by yourself and they cannot be blamed upon others, especially your wife or your mother. 

Being Manly means to be willing and able to see what is real and to recognize what needs to be changed, then of course to put in the effort, despite the embarrassment or pain to make the change.  You may find you need to ask forgiveness from others in this part.

I will admit that sometimes change will need to occur in other family members, but your focus should be on the changes you need to make and then when you are in a better place to encourage positive change in others. 

Men must view their own selves, actions, thoughts and attitudes and accept what needs to be changed, then learn how to make that change and take all the time needed to make the changes permanent.

"The Lord seeks to transform our nature, not just to modify our behavior.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power by which we learn to root out the causes of our spiritual illness rather than devoting all our time and exhausting our strength in the alleviation of the symptoms." Robert L. Millet (Men of Valor p. 78)

The gospel is the only way that we can even determine the actual causes of the changes we need to make, and much more provides the method to make the change.  It also provides the reasons to change and can help with the motivation to make the changes. 

This is not to imply that we are the only ones that have spiritual illness that needs rooting out and filled again with spiritual manly man strength.  Instead it means we are theonly ones that can take the responsibility to change ourselves and lead out as an example to the rest of our family to encourage them to do the same. 

Lead out by
Rooting it out
then replace it
with something better
closer to the man we are created to be
until the day comes that we are like Him
and then we will fully know ourselves for
who we really are, have always been intended to be
but needed to become.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas artwork: The Madonna & Child

16 year old Belle Prosser produced this piece of artwork this year.  I think it is a beautiful piece of Mary and baby Jesus.  She used joint compound and coffee grounds in the production of it as well as other more traditional things to give it a unique coloring and texture.  I like to see great new artwork and it is a bonus that it is a teenager. 

If you would like to read more about her click here to go to a Deseret News article.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Guest Blog: Octogenarian Inspiration

I learned something amazing recently.  I found out that my mother-in-law, who is in her ninth decade of life, has been going to the gym five days a week.  Our friend Gloria rents a room from her, and most weekday mornings they go to the gym together.  Since my mother-in-law has back trouble, she uses a walker.  Gloria loads the walker into the car, and when they get to the gym, she takes the walker out of the trunk for my mother-in-law so she can use it to make her way into the gym. Mom walks twenty minutes on the treadmill and rides fifteen minutes on the stationary bike.  She feels bad because she has to hold onto the treadmill while she's walking.  (I told her I hold onto the treadmill most of the time when I'm walking too, and I'm thirty years her junior!)

I was pondering what some of the other patrons must think when they see what trouble and effort it takes Mom to get into the gym in the first place, not to mention the energy she must expend to actually use the equipment.  I was imagining their inner dialogues might go something like this: "Well, if that lady can be here exercising day after day, I figure I can too!"   I expect that on days when they have had to drag themselves there--perhaps barely making it--seeing Mom and her perseverance must be a motivation for them to keep going, to not give up.

Apparently this is the case.  Mom related that the staff have told her that she is in inspiration to a lot of people who come there to exercise.  

I know Mom can't do all the things she once could.  Sometimes she feels like there's not much she can do any more.  But she's an inspiration to me for doing what she can.  And it appears she is an inspiration to others as well, most of whom she doesn't even know.
So the next time you feel too old or too young or too busy or too tired, or that you're just a little fish in a big pond and can't be much help or inspiration to anyone, think of my mother-in-law.  Just do what you can, be consistent, and do your best.  While you're helping yourself, you might even help someone else!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What I've been reading #10

Needless to say I've been enjoying reading as usual.  Yes, I do have plenty of other things to do with my time as well, but reading is of high value to me.  I am a person with dual interests--that is to say I am social but also enjoy solitary activities.  I enjoy reading, typically as a solitary activity.  Although my wife and I sometimes read a book out loud together, and include our youngest daughter at times as well.  Most of my reading is alone.  I often keep an eye on the books that my family members are reading and that is what led to three of the books that I have read in this bunch.  The first one was one that my wife chose for herself when I gave her a Kindle as a gift.  The next two came as a result of a book club my wife is in.  The last one was a determination to read something that had some action to it!  I enjoyed them all. 

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I found this book to be quite interesting.  This was a book that was chosen for a reading group that Lisa is in and I thought it sounded interesting enough that I would read it too.  It tells of the sixties in the south where white families had black maids.  Of course during this time things were changing with the laws and with the ways that whites and blacks treated each other.  So this is a view of that interaction in a place where the tire was hitting the road daily.  It is hard to hide or pretend the way you feel about a different race when they are in your own home daily for hours at a time.  This story is very interesting to see how the groups played nice so to speak but they had very different ways of doing that based on how much social power they had.  Then of course there were the times when things were not so nice...  I recommend this book as a good read if you want to think about a controversial time in our history when things were not even as good as they are now in this regard.
The Walk by Richard Paul Evans
Richard Paul Evans has written a number of books that deal with important relationship issues without a bunch of rude, crude or offensive things in his books.  This book is interesting as the main action happened at the beginning and then the very end of the book.  The part in the middle seems much like a travel log and is a little stilted.  Of course since a man is the main character and it is somewhat like he is writing in his journal then it might be just what you would expect.  I would have liked to see a little more expression of his feelings.  However, to be honest he was trying to come to terms with his feelings after the death of his wife and that is what led to "The Walk".  I recognize that my review doesn't sound so positive but you will note that this book is a series and the book below is the second one in this obviously I enjoyed it and wanted to see what happened next.

Miles to Go by Richard Paul Evans (Sequel to The Walk)
Alan, the main character, is not a particularly religious fellow.  He doesn't believe much of religion and as a result he is struggling with not just his wife's death but the fact of what happened with his more recent problems.  But then he has an interesting experience where in a vision/dream his wife tells him something that quickly comes to pass.  She told him something he was supposed to do as part of his life.  Alan is a good thinker and now he is starting to realize some things about life that he hadn't recognized before.  So this walk that seemed to be to help him work out his grief has instead turned into something that is going to educate and expand his ways of thinking.  And not only that, apparently some people are in his way specifically so he can help them too and others are there to help him and sometimes both.  This book was more enjoyable to me than the first.  To see Alan growing and finding purpose in life that seemed to have lost any purpose with the death of his wife.  Now I'm anxious for the next book to come out.

Thunder of Heaven by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall

If you read my blog regularly or at least the ones Entitled "What I've been reading" you will note that this is a second book in a series about the times approaching the end of the world.  If you would like to read my review of the first book in this series click here.   Joshua the main character again finds himself in hot water with the leaders of nations as he continues to develop defensive weapons on the cutting edge of science.  As the US government becomes increasingly corrupt and becoming more concerned with politics and winning elections instead of protecting the citizens, he gets involved and again saves the country from another devastating nuclear blow.  However this time some people are still killed despite his best efforts.  Joshua's wife has gotten increasingly involved in the activities of he and other patriots that are trying to save the country despite the governments lack of interest.  Ultimately Joshua finds himself in Israel as Islamic countries gather to annihilate Israel and Bible prophecies are fulfilled in fantastic but realistic enough ways to seem possible.  I enjoyed this book almost as much as the first one.  I only say almost because the first 50 pages or so seemed a little slow to me but then things took off like a rocket and the book ended with me wanting the next one in the series (which of course isn't out yet).  So now I find myself in a couple more series waiting for the authors to write more. 

Well as you can see I have been enjoying reading a lot.  It is nice to have so many books available in our day and age to read and enjoy, not to mention to learn from.  Keep on reading!

"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library."
— Jorge Luis Borges (who was a librarian, author, professor in Argentina)
Jorge Borges

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christmas music 2011 #1: Matthew West

I was surprised to find a really great Christmas album from an artist I was only minimally familiar with.  I had run across one of his songs a while back that I included with one of my Manly Man Trainings that you can view by clicking here.  From that little exposure I knew he was a Christian song writer and singer but I didn't really pay any more attention than that one song. 

For me Christmas music time starts early and I start looking around for good new Christmas Music coming out around the end of September.  Matthew West's album: The Heart of Christmas, was one of the early entries, so I listened and was impressed and I downloaded the album.  I have listened to it quite a bit this season and am more impressed the more I listen. 

Matthew West was really excited about baseball when he was a child.  He played baseball through High School where he hoped to get a baseball scholarship to a university.  Instead he ended up with a music scholarship to Millikin University in Illinois.  After graduation he put out three independent albums before signing a contract with a studio to produce future albums.  Also after graduation he was offered a deal to write songs and he has written some songs for famous singers. 

In 2002 he forgot his keys and was locked out of his house.  In his effort to break into his house he ended up cutting his left arm severely and blacked out.  He awoke to Spanish speaking construction workers praying over him.  He was taken to the hospital and told his chances were slim that he would regain full use of his arm.  However, he did indeed regain full use and continues playing the guitar and singing. 

In 2007 Matthew started having some difficulties with his voice that soon required surgery to repair.  Once again his career was threatened and it was unknown if he would be able to get back to singing.  Following the surgery he was prescribed a two month period of no speaking.  Fortunately he was able to recover and resume his singing career.  During that time a documentary was made of his situation entitled "Nothing to Say".  Not surprisingly his next album was called, "Something to Say".

Matthew West has been married going on ten years and has two daughters.  Being a family man and a person who has gone through difficulties in life may give him good perspective as he continues to write and sing that are able to touch people and change their lives. 

His Christmas album: The Heart of Christmas, came out this year and has a few traditional songs done well.  The real strength of the album is the Christmas songs he has written that will be new ones that we will enjoy years into the future.  Below I have put the videos from three of them.  Enjoy!

Day After Christmas by Matthew West

Give This Christmas Away by Matthew West
One Last Christmas by Matthew West

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