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...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

To Be or not to be?

Lynn G. Robbins of the Quorum of the Seventy made some remarks in conference that initially intrigued me and since have really stuck with me.  He talked about being and doing.  It is about who you are as a person versus your behavior.  He pointed out that these two things are different.  That what you do isn't as important as who you are.  Or more directly what you do isn't necessarily representative of who you are.  He suggests that our emphasis be put on becoming more like the Savior and that will lead to actions that are indeed more like him.  Our behavior will change to represent who we are as we become a better more Christ-like person. 

We have often been encouraged to do what we are asked of the Lord willingly.  In essence Elder Robbins is telling us to directly work on and change our inner selves and our outer self will change along with us to reflect who we really are. 

It reminded me of times in my life where I had known the right thing to do but didn't want to do it.  I even consciously knew it was right and knew I should want to do it, but alas I didn't really want to do it.  Ultimately my way of handling that conflict was that I wanted to want to do the right thing but I wasn't at that point yet.  Over time my wanting to want to be better helped prepare me to be the person inside that would lead to the actions I knew were right but did not yet do.    When our character and our actions match, peace and happiness are much more achievable!

Elder Robbins points out we make lists of things to do, but not lists of things to be.  He explains that we can check off things on the to do list when they are done, but we can't check off things to be, because they continue and don't end.  Consequently being is a lifetime commitment rather than doing, which is a time frame commitment.  Interestingly we complain about some commitments required or encouraged by the church (i.e. the time it takes to move a neighbor, the time to prepare for an activity or a lesson, and so forth) so we can go back home to remain the person we were without any permanent change.  It could possibly inhibit permanent change because we feel like we have done enough for the moment.  Permanent change is of course what the Lord is requiring. 

I couldn't help but wonder though if doing good things in a hypocritical way couldn't eventually lead us back to being what the Lord wants us to be, or at least encourage us to become better?  It didn't seem to work too well for the hypocrites of Christ's time.  It seems that if we choose to refrain from doing good because we don't feel like it then we are missing out on critical experience, so it must be worthwhile in some way or form to do the right thing even when we are not doing it willingly, or with the right spirit. 
Bonds That Make Us Free: Healing Our Relationships, Coming to Ourselves
I realize now that his talk was primarily a parenting talk but as I heard it I understood it as a motivational and explanatory, nuts and bolts, kind of talk for individuals.  (Kind of on the order of the book, The Bonds That Make Us Free by Terry Warner) When I read and studied the talk I realized it has huge value as a parenting talk and could be developed into a parenting class by leading a group in finding practical concrete ways of implementing what he teaches.

How do we approach the "to be" part of his talk.  How do we influence who we are becoming?  The world would like us to believe that we are developing but there isn't a whole lot we can do about who we are the world says.  The world would say that we cannot directly influence our behavior.  Elder Robbins teaches us that being taught and hearing (responding) to the word of God can impact who we are.  You see we believe in change, even a mighty change and that all are capable of that change to grow toward being like Christ. 

This talk is awesome!  Learn to be and not just do.

Friday, April 15, 2011


After long and protracted negotiations by professional negotiators, the dangerous and risky business of determining a wedding luncheon location has been decided to everyone's satisfaction.

While many restaurants were considered and eliminated and one was contacted but rejected prestigious offers; while the natives were getting restless and suggestions from many who had an eating stake at the table of precedent made strong suggestions; while strong arm tactics by experienced older sisters, grandmothers and others were tendered, while efforts of those used to negotiating with people's lives at stake, not to mention grades and other important things were used; with all efforts having been totally focused on food and the well-being of the wedding couple to assure that they survived at least their wedding day gastrointestonally speaking; all negotiations have now been closed and agreed upon and no lock out will be necessary!  The wedding couple has accepted the offer of Magleby's in Provo Utah!

Now all other wedding preparations can resume after stalling due to the inability of the brides family to guarantee a wedding luncheon.  Now that food is guaranteed all planners will return to planning the rest of the festivities.
All is at peace.

All is well.

All is copacetic.

All may return to a brief period of normality before the real excitement begins!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guest Blog: The Piano Man

A friend of mine had her piano tuned recently.  Once he arrived, the piano tuner settled in to his work, and my friend went on with hers.  Since she has four children--including two preschoolers--there is always plenty on her "to do" list, and this day was no exception.

After they'd both been working for awhile, my friend found her way back into the living room and dropped into a chair near the piano.  As she did so, she made a comment in the general direction of the piano tuner about how much she hates doing laundry.

Upon hearing her complaint, the piano tuner paused, looked up, and said, "Well, you might want to do something about that, because the more you hate something, the worse it gets." 

In the days since my friend shared her exchange with the piano man, I've been thinking about his statement, testing it against my own life experience.  So far, the piano man is batting a thousand.  For example, I hate confrontation, and when a situation arises where I feel I must be confrontive, I worry and obsess and can hardly think of anything else.  I live and re-live the dreaded confrontation scenario over and over in my mind before I ever live it in reality, thus building and feeding the anxiety and apprehension and whatever other negative feelings are conjured up.  And I believe those pre-reality confrontations make the actual confrontations worse; likely heavily influencing how they unfold. 

The piano man's observation seems to hold equally true for other things that are not on my "favorites" list : trimming the weeds, making financial phone calls, cleaning the oven, and balancing the checkbook.  The more I think about how onerous they are, the more onerous those tasks seem to become, and the more I dread them.  Whereas if I just grit my teeth--or better yet, try and find something positive in those tasks I dislike--I find they are not so distasteful (or, as a minimum, the distaste is not unnecessarily prolonged!).

My daughter Haleigh ordered some books from over a week ago.  She's been haunting the mailbox every afternoon since then, but so far, no luck.  Tonight at dinner she announced, "I hate waiting for books to come in the mail!"  However, because those books had not yet arrived, she finally decided to read a series we recommended to her long ago (and has already devoured four out of the five books in the series!).  This caused me to reflect on how at times, the things we hate and/or avoid might actually end up leading us to opportunities or situations that bless or benefit us.  The dreaded confrontation may yield a deeper understanding of the other person; the onerous phone call may yield an unexpected fiscal bonus. 

I think the key to the piano man's pronouncement is this: that we can actually do something to change the way we feel about things.  I understand this quite well in the abstract; it's in the actual nitty-gritty of day-to-day living that my cerebral comprehension frequently fails to transform itself into action!  But I'll keep trying.  And who knows?  Maybe one day I'll actually look forward to wielding the weed-whacker.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Count Down

Most of the time when we think of a 'count down' it is something positive.  I remember when the girls were little that we would make paper chains to count down a number of things like how long till Christmas or vacation or whatever.  (Sometimes we had chains to count up, like the number of books we have read this summer.)  Each day of course one link would be removed and then the remaining chain indicated the number of days until the desired event. 

"Desired Event" here is the key term.  In four days Lisa goes to Minnesota to be visit her Mom and Dad.  Her Mom is now in a "care facility' where she is able to receive 24 hour care.  She is set up with her computer which allows her to maintain connection with her family and outside world.  Though she doesn't get to be in her home of many years she does have a place that by all reports is good with a private room.  I suspect that Mom is looking forward to Lisa's visit.  Possibly the highlight of the trip is that Lisa is planning to take her mother to the facility where her Dad is currently recuperating.  This will be the first time since the fall (her dad's fall in November, not the fall of Adam and Eve) that they will have seen each other. 

Lisa will be visiting her Dad of course while there as well.  By all reports he has progressed greatly over the last few months.  He is no longer in a coma.  He is much more alert and attentive and is making efforts to communicate although he still is not able to do so verbally.  With gestures and resonding to 'yes' or 'no' questions as well as mouthing words he is trying to be understood.  He apparently has responded with excitement that his oldest daughter is coming to visit. 

Lisa will also get to spend some time with our oldest daughter and her husband Mike.  Mike is our first son-in-law and by the way we look at things has joined the family and become a son.  (We anticipate he will have a brother in the family soon). 

Lisa will be visiting with her sisters and family as well.  It will be a good vacation for Lisa.

I know Jaime and Mike and Lisa are looking forward to going to Donatelli's for a meal which is a family tradition when we are in Minnesota.  That is our favorite restaurant.  I suspect they will eat some Italian Fries among other yummy things.  Of course they will tell me all about it, which should wet my appetite for...bread and water which is what I'll be eating here!  Okay maybe bread and milk!  Ha!
So needless to say with Lisa gone and Haleigh and I here it will be different.  Not entirely enjoyable without Lisa but I'm glad she can have a good visit with her family.  Haleigh has a variety of things to do over her Spring break and I have the normal stuff of going to work and so forth, including speaking in a branch in the Stake, so I'll stay busy but will miss my wife. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Abilities and Disabilities

In the winter it is a common thing to hear about how each snow flake is different.  It is amazing, practically unbelievable to imagine that every snowflake is unique and in some way different from every other snowflake.  Particularly amazing when our naked eye, most often, cannot see the difference. 
Then to think of people and how we each vary from one another in multiple ways--it is mind boggling.  We have multiple different skin colors, hair syles, eye colors and shapes, heights and weights, and ways of dressing just to mention a few easily noticable distinctive characteristics.  Then to overlay the variety of talents and abilities that people have adds additional layers of diversity.  So many abilities! Many of them so subtle that people often don't even know they have them or that they are distinctive from other people. 

I have talked to a number of folks who have one of those subtle, not easily noticed, abilities.  To be honest I think most if not all people have these inconspicuous talents.  They are often amazed when I point them out and even more amazed when they realize the uniqueness that they harbor.  It helps them to see the world with more clarity when they begin to see their own uniqueness and realize that each of us is exceptional and irreplaceble. 

When we think about talents and abilities we often think of the more glaring and visible ones.  I once talked with a young lady who had multiple spectacular abilities and skills.  She yearned for people to see past those to her other qualities that she considered more fundamental in making up her person.  Singing, art, comedy, instrument playing, and athletic abilities are just a few of the abilities that are more easily noticed.  Even if you take one category of abilities, for example athletic, there is a huge variance in a single talent.  Even if you take a sub-category of that ability, for example basketball playing ability there is a great variety (think of why we have dunking contests and can differentiate between dunks enough to chose a winner). 

When you consider another talent, like empathy, and consider some of the variations of that talent from one who can feel another's pain to one who can anticipate another's need.
Ultimately I must conclude that everyone has multiple abilities and everyone nust have multiple disabilities as well.  I was reading an article by Orson Scott card that you can access by clicking on this line.  It said:  "Our bodies come with a mix of abilities and disabilities. What God cares about is not what we're born with, but how we use whatever talents we've been given."

To use our talents and develope them there must be a time of discovery and then a time of growth and maturity.  Finally a time for using the talent as God intended.  And then in the process of using it we can advance the talent and magnify it.  When we consider all the desirable abilities and talents in the world it is crucial that we recognize our own and learn to use it for God's intent. 

As we develope our abilities we then have a strong foundation for overcoming, minimizing or managing our disabilities.  Though all disabilities will not be overcome in this life, by recognizing and tapping into the fruits of our strentghs (i.e. confidence, discipline, and determination that result from our recognizing and using our strengths for good) we can overcome or at least accept our inabilities.  Some disabilities may actually not be fixed while others may be incapabilities.

It is possible that as Neal Maxwell hints at that our greatest ability to God may be our availability and our greatest disability our inavailability.  "God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability."
Neal A. Maxwell

Ether 12:27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Music #2: That's Life--Michael Buble

Sometimes life can be rough.  Things don't work out like we envisioned, jobs don't come, we remain relatively poor, accidents happen, and people die.  Our mind, body or family doesn't come through like we hoped, dreams are dashed, disasters happen, God doesn't do what we want when we hoped he would, and maybe worst of all people don't love us like we thought they would.  Oh and that's just the worst of it. 

Sometimes small things happen just right, like, someone smiles to us at just the right time, the tax refund pays the unexpected bill, family tells us how wonderful we are, "I love you"s come in time to save our heart or life, and we get a serendipitous surprise that means everything.

That's life!  Life doesn't always go just right.  And if it did, for some few folks, that itself would be a huge test.  Life tests us and then tests some more.  God is the tester and we submitted ourselves for the test, because the reward is so huge that the chance to succeed and the risk in the effort is worth it.  That's Life!  Don't you love it?

That's Life by Micheal Buble:

Lyrics for That's Life:

(Don't let it get you, don't let it get you down
For this world keeps on spinning 'round)

That's life
That's what all the people say
You're riding high in April
You're shot down in May
I know I'm gonna change that tune
When I'm back on top in June

I say that's life
& as funny as it may seem
Some people get their kicks
Stompin' on your dreams
But I don't let it, let it get me down
'Cause this fine ol' world keeps spinning 'round

I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate,
A poet, a pawn & a king
I've been up & down & over & out
But I know one thing
Each time I find myself, flat on this face
I pick myself up & get back in the race

That's life
I can't deny it
I thought of quitting, baby
This heart wasn't gonna buy it
And if I didn't think it was worth one single try
I'd jump right on a big bird & then I'd fly

I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate,
A poet, a pawn & a king
I've been up & down & over & out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up & get back in the race

That's life
That's life & I can't deny it
Many times I thought of cutting out
But my heart won't buy it
But if there's nothing shakin' come this here July
I'm gonna roll
I'm gonna roll
I'm gonna roll myself up in a big ball & die
Can't deny it
That's life

Here's a poem you might enjoy by Grace Noll Crowell that goes along with the song.  

This, too, will pass. O heart, say it over and over,
Out of your deepest sorrow, out of your deepest grief,
No hurt can last forever -- perhaps tomorrow will bring relief.
This, too, will pass. It will spend itself -- its fury
Will die as the wind dies down with the setting sun.
Assuaged and calm, you will rest again,
Forgetting a thing that is done.
Repeat it again and again, O heart for your comfort:
This, too, will pass as surely as passed before
The old forgotten pain, and the other sorrows
That once you bore.
As certain as stars at night, or dawn after darkness,
Inherent as the lift of the blowing grass,
Whatever your despair or your frustration,
This, too, will pass.
-- Grace Noll Crowell

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Manly Man Training #8: People Matter More than Things

Once we get going in life we can quickly get caught up in the details and forget what the whole thing is about.  On a daily basis we can wake up, have a mental list of things to get done to prepare to go to work, then go to work and do our duties there.  Often those things will become routine and we may lose interest in them.  We may even get to the point where they don't take much thought. 

Then we get off work and we are off to do things to keep life interesting.  Our whole day may go by and we might not even think about people beyond whatever their role is in our lives" the cashier, other drivers, someone in line with us etc.  We might not think about them in the sense of wanting to help them reach their potential, understand their potential or prepare for their potential.  It is possible that we will let our family go by as well and just assume that all is well because it has been well. 

Days can turn into weeks and months and then years.  Great chunks of our life can go by without much thought beyond what amusements or embellishments we can give life to make it periodically fun or exciting.  We may lose the whole picture of life.  What is life's purpose and how can that purpose impact our daily life decisions?  How can implementing purposeful life activities into our day give us the joy promised in the scriptures?  Is that joy at least equal to the fun and excitement of amusements and available entertainment and diversions? 

``It is startling how easy it is in today's busy and complex world to get caught up in the thick of thin things, to become prey to the less important.  Means begin to occupy us more than ends.  Making a living, being included in the best social circles, providing the family with the nice cars, lovely clothes, or extravagant travel opportunities-these may make life enjoyable and comfortable, but they are not the stuff out of which eternal happiness is made.  Life is a mission and not a career.

People matter more than things.  People matter more than schedules and timetables and products.  God and Christ work full time in the business of people, and surely that primary labor contributes in great measure to their fullness of joy."  (Robert L. Millet, Men of Valor, p22)

Most of us served missions for the Lord when we were 19, 20, 21 or so.  Wasn't that one of the temptations early in the mission.  To get diverted by the things around us that we hadn't experienced before.  I heard of a young man serving in Chicago who loved the hot dogs there, better than at home.  On my mission to Thailand, one of the early temptations was all the available cheap music.  I couldn't even listen to it as a missionary but I purchased it and sent it home because it was so cheap.  Letting my thoughts get caught up in what I would buy and my music collection and diverting from the people that needed the gospel all around me, including ironical those that worked in the music shop. 

Then late in the mission, most missionaries want to use every minute productively, often using P-days for more teaching and service than relaxation and preparation.  The missionary has learned to love the people and sees the end of his mission with fear and will use every minute to push the end away instead of bringing it on.  Every person becomes more important to that missionary and he doesn't want any opportunities to pass by without his best effort to convert the world. 

As men we need to recognize early the importance of each person around us and use our effort to be an example and a preparer for them to accept the truth.  This of course is of utmost importance in our family.  See people for who they are and not the roles they fulfill in your life.  Remember our career is as "Son's of God" not whatever job we have here. This is our mission and we don't want it to be waisted away or diminished.  We want to remember our mission here on this earth is all about people:  Ourselves, our wife, our family, our neighbors and as we are able to expand beyond that.  Remember what we are about, and don't get tangled up in the diversions or details until we forget the purpose. 

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