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, May 14, 2011

All lost sheep are not prodigal sons

Artist: Liz Swindle
I guess one of the unique blessings of being a substitute teaching in Sunday School is that even after the lesson is over you continue thinking about it.  There is no lesson for the next week to switch your attention to.  In my case it isn't what I coulda' shoulda' done different but rather just that the scriptures continue to be on my mind and I consider other areas of the lesson and remain aware of how the things in my daily life connect with that lesson. 

I think about some of the lost sheep that I know of in my life.  I remember one mother telling me about her son that may be called a lost sheep.  That even after he stopped coming to church for quite some time he would continue to ask, "Did anyone ask about me at church?"  Even though he may have been lost, he still wanted to be remembered.

I think of various times that I have read news reports about people who were lost, either children kidnapped, hikers lost in the mountains, snowmobilers who didn't come home as expected and runaway teenagers.  Huge efforts by law enforcement, search and rescue, churches and communities ensued to try to find the missing one.  So as a whole we do recognize the value of the lost sheep or the prodigal child.

Artist: Liz Swindle
Maybe because the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal Son are so closely tied in the scriptures we often think of only boys in this role.  But there are girls who travel this road too.  Still, thinking of it so narrowly that a lost sheep or prodigal will be a young person isn't the full picture either.  A parent, adult or even grandparent can be a lost sheep too.  Let's not forget them, instead attributing being lost to youth only, but lets remember to seek out the lost of all stripes. 

I ran across some videos about Liz Swindle the artist and her working on a painting entitled lost sheep.  Hope you enjoy.

This first one is about her process leading to the painting.
This second one is a brief interview of her model for the Savior.
And the last one is a about the model for the lost sheep, even briefer than the last.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Guest Blog: When all else fails, read the directions

It's not just for men.

Last week I rented a Red Box DVD for the first time ever.  Hilary went online and found a Red Box location nearby, and reserved the movie for us.  So after dinner we took our homemade ice cream cake to the family room and watched "Tangled" as a family for her birthday. 

My job the next morning was to return the DVD to the Red Box.  I'm the right person for this job because I am the one who would have the biggest problem paying an extra dollar for an additional day's rental.  Since the Red  Box was only about a block out of my way, I just left a couple of minutes early for work, intending to drop it off and be on my way.

I had gone with Hilary to pick up the DVD; I watched her retrieve it and noticed it should be returned to the same slot.  So when I got to the Red Box that morning, I tried to insert the DVD into the slot.  But it wouldn't be inserted.  I checked the DVD case to make sure I had oriented it correctly (which I had).  I tried to change the angle I used to insert the DVD (which I couldn't).  I tried again to insert the DVD into the slot, only this time I pushed a little harder (it still wouldn't go in).  I tried to insert that DVD into that slot a couple more times; the physical equivalent of repeating my guesses for charades a little louder, and then a little louder than that, because I must be right after all, and my teammate must not have heard me! 

By this time I'm feeling pretty silly, wondering if people driving by in their cars are chuckling a little at the clueless woman trying to return her DVD.  Just then, the light bulb over my head must have illuminated, for the thought came to me that perhaps I had to DO something on the screen before the slot would accept my offering.  Sure enough, one little tap in the proper place on the screen, and--voila!  The Red Box ate that little DVD just like an obedient toddler gulping down his strained peas.

Too bad it's not only at the Red Box that we figuratively beat our heads against the wall, sure that if we just try that one more time, we'll finally meet with success.  This despite ample evidence of failure through multiple previous attempts.  Albert Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.  By that definition, we've all suffered from insanity at one time or another.

So if you're in the insanity loop, try reading the directions.  Talk to someone you respect who's experienced what you're going through.  Talk to God.  Listen to what He tells you through His servants, old and new.  And then test their counsel by putting it into practice.

Another thing that's not just for men. 

Spotlight on Women #1: Are we not all mothers?

In life it seems that we all have the opportunity to be or play the part of mother at some point at least briefly.  Many women spend many years if not their whole life being and doing mother.  That may sound odd, but at one time or another we all do indeed have the chance to do motherly things and be motherly people to those needing mothering.  Whether we have our own children or not and even whether or not we are a woman or a man; we still play that leadership/mentorship role in the development of children whether it be a few hours, days or a lifetime. 
Some readers will recognize that the title of this post comes from a talk by Sheri Dew
Sheri Dew mentioned an experience that she had when she had taken several of her nieces on a trip to a big city.  She knew her sisters had trusted her with their safety but wasn't overly concerned about that until they were walking to the closest church for a meeting and found themselves among a bunch of drunken revelers who they had to walk through to get to the church.  She goes on to say "Feeling no small amount of anxiety, I turned toward the girls, gathered them around me, and shouted over the din, 'Stay right with me.  Don't take your eyes off me.'  With that I began to maneuver my way through the crush of humanity, constantly looking behind me to make sure the girls were right there.  The only thing on my mind was my nieces' safety.  there were moments when I truly feared we would not make it to the church in one piece.  Drunken men with boa constrictors draped around their necks and adolescents brandishing weapons sometimes blocked our way.  It was intimidating to say the least."

I've had some occasions over the years when I was in charge of a number of children and constantly was looking to see where they are to be sure they were safe and to make myself available immediately if they needed help, training or teaching or direction or even comfort.  That is what mother's often do--provide whatever is needed at the proper time.  And some mothers become aware of that time before their kids even know it and that guidance is given and consequently not even noticed since the child didn't feel the crisis before being nudged in the right direction.

But the truth is that the term mother isn't just about maternity and having children.  Being a mother is a skill set that tends to be there with women (and I believe can be developed to some degree in men).  That mothering ability can in emerge whenever needed whether it be with a person's own children, another child in need or even providing motherly comfort or advice to an adult.   

I remember a story that my mother told me about herself when she was a little girl of around five or so.  Another child was playing near her at a park and fell and got hurt and started crying.  That child was larger than my Mom at the time but she rushed over to help the child and "mothered" it despite her young age and small size. 

Being a mother is part of a woman and not limited to only women who have had children.  Don't we often see that a wife ends up mothering her husband?  Maybe we could say that mothering is a quality and not a condition.  The interesting thing with that quality is that the world is combining against that skill trying to diminish, minimize, limit and destroy it.  It is easy to see why when you consider that the more success he has killing the desire and ability to mother then he can negatively impact the lives of huge numbers of children who will not have receive the vital caring and mentoring provided by a mother.  That lack alone has and will continue to contribute to the difficulties that ours and other societies are having.  As Sheri Dew says, "what a mother teaches a child doesn't get erased." and "few of us will reach our potential without the nurturing of both the mother that bore us and the mothers who bear with us".

Sometimes the question of comparing motherhood to priesthood arises.  Sheri Dew says this about that: "Motherhood is not what was left over after our Father blessed His sons with the privilege of priesthood ordination.  it was the most ennobling endowment He could give His daughters, a sacred trust that gave woman an unparalleled role in helping His children keep their second estate.  As President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., declared, motherhood is 'as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself.'"

So ladies, when you are tempted (and I mean that literally) to downplay your role, whether it is just in your mind, word or in action please remember that your motherly skills, are indispensable to both genders and to God's plan for us all.  Please know that despite much of the world buying into the tempters plan to diminish the role of mothers, that there are many men and women alike that realize its eternal value to us individually and to the race as a whole.  It doesn't matter it the woman are young or old, large or small, strong or weak,brilliant or slow, we need all their contributions, every one!  Remember this preeminent gift that you have and please use it freely, we all need it. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Prodigal's father

This past Sunday I was the substitute teacher in Sunday School.  The main parable of the lesson was the Prodigal Son.  This quote in the lesson by Gordon B.Hinckley has really had me thinking:   "Every parent ought to read it again and again. It is large enough to encompass every household, and enough larger than that to encompass all mankind, for are we not all prodigal sons and daughters who need to repent and partake of the forgiving mercy of our Heavenly Father and then follow His example?” (“Of You It Is Required to Forgive,” Ensign, June 1991, 5).

As a father my thoughts tend to turn first to what it must have been like for him.  Here is a poem I wrote as I contemplated what it must have been like for the father.

Prodigal's Father

He sat and watched the horizon
remembering the day,
feeling the feelings, again:
his failure, the guilt, the teetering hope.

The day life changed
family changed
peace and comfort changed
to pain and loss.

"I know he has struggled,
chafed under family rules
but please Lord,
bring him safely home."

This prayer mumbled aloft,
thought again and again,
prayed on hurting knees
over and over again.

Every chance he got
every day, many times a day,
sometimes in mid night,
he looked to the road home.

Although supplies, sheep,
and the occasional neighbor
was seen;
his lost son was not.

Had he failed his son
so much?
Not taught him of truth?
Not met his fatherly edict from God?

Was it me
that pushed him to go?
Not loving enough?
Loving too much?

Will he return?
Surely he will?
It has been so long,
is all hope lost?

His other son comes.
Wonders why father
is so forlorn.
Angry thoughts of "I'm here".

Wife worries.
Not just for sons,
but for husband.
He has not been himself.

Father moves through each day
not sure how to maintain
the traditions and the family,
with an empty chair.

Friends initially comfort,
then try to cheer,
then to distract,
finally come too little.

Day after day;
week after week;
season by season;
hope by lost hope.

The father still looks on
into the distance
looking for a hope
of his son's return.

Father feels old.
Mother tries to heal all.
Remaining son feels cold.
Friends move on.

Father in his chair
hope almost gone,
but he clings, he clings...

Heavy head droops,
almost touches
heavy heart.
He glances up.

A speck
A spot
A shape
Is it him?

It can’t be.
Can it be?
It is him!

 Copyright by Dallas, Dad, Big D and I

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Soul Surfer--the movie #2

This is an actual picture of Bethany Hamilton rather than the actress
 that played her in the movie.
Today I went and saw Soul Surfer again with my youngest daughter.  I was interested to know if it would be as stirring the second time around and sure enough I really enjoyed it again.  I would say that I enjoyed it as much the second time as I did the first time.

The strength of character, the world would say, that she showed was amazing.  The strength of her faith is what Christians would say.  Of course she had times of doubt and difficulty and wondering what God was doing with her and why it happened and pretty much the normal stuff.  But the movie seems to show that her trajectory was up up and away with just a couple times of doubt.  One line toward the end of the movie when she is asked by a journalist that if she could undo that day would she and she stops and thinks and says that she wouldn't change it because now she can "embrace more people with one arm than I could before with two", really made me think.  Instead of pity and despair she looked hard and found a way to grow in a different direction than anticipated.  That is what we should be looking for when we have rough times and when we have catastrophes. 

Once again I noticed that one of the songs used in the movie was written by Bethany, however; it is not on the soundtrack.  So I looked around and found it on Youtube and so have put it here for you to listen to.  You will notice a brief part toward the middle where Bethany herself quotes some scripture.  The actual singer is Natalie Rogers.

Fire Within written by Bethany Hamilton sang by Natalie Rogers:

A turning point for Bethany was when she went on a mission trip with her church to Thailand which had just a little while before been hit by the tsunami. 
There she learned that she wasn't the only one that had troubles and as she reached outside herself to help others she once again found herself.  Which does a good job of supporting what Spencer W. Kimball said:

Service to others deepens and sweetens this life while we are preparing to live in a better world. It is by serving that we learn how to serve. When we are engaged in the service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves! In the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the promise of Jesus that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves! [See Matthew 10:39.]
Not only do we “find” ourselves in terms of acknowledging divine guidance in our lives, but the more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls. We become more significant individuals as we serve others. We become more substantive as we serve others—indeed, it is easier to “find” ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!(The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 250–51)

Here's a little bit of an article about Bethany written in Dec. 2007 a couple years after the accident.

Seventeen-year-old Bethany Hamilton has overcome long odds in her life. On Oct. 31, 2003, a 14-foot tiger shark attacked her near the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. During the accident, she lost an arm, and her goal of professional surfing was seemingly quashed. But Bethany was undeterred — her faith in God and determination to surf professionally inspired her with a positive attitude that continues to this day. Her motto: "Me, quit? No way!"

Ignoring the doubts of others, Bethany continued to pursue her dream of surfing as a pro. Since the shark attack, she has achieved participation in numerous final competitions and has won three contests. In August, at the first stop on the Hawaii National Scholastic Surfing Association circuit, she took first place in the Open Women's division, placing ahead of 2003-04 National Champion Carissa Moore. Still, she sees herself as more than a surfer. Bethany hopes to inspire others with her story and her faith in Christ.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday Music #6: Khadja Nin -- Mama

Khadja Nin is a singer from Burundi Africa.  She was the youngest of eight children of a diplomat and was known for her beautiful voice since she was a young child.  Her singing career really took off after marrying her husband who was in the music business in Europe.  I read that she sings in Burundi, Swahili and French.  Needless to say I don't understand the songs but they sound very pleasing, and although I don't know what this song is about other than Mama, I thought it would be an enjoyable listen to help us think of our mothers. 

Khadja Nin -- Mama  

She is quoted as saying, "But you know, I try to stay very calm with it (music career) because I came to music rather late in my life and by accident. Actually, music came to me like a gift from God"


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Manyly Man Training #12: Honor your Mothers

When I talk to young men or observe young men, I like to find out how they treat their mothers.  How they treat their mothers gives me clues to their view of motherhood and womanhood.  I tell my daughters that when they get married that their husband will be treating them much like he treats his mother after the first year or so.  I mentioned this to a co-worker and his comment was "or earlier!" 

The truth is that as men we learn about womanhood from our mothers at home.  Maybe we've learned some from sisters, but the next big influence is our wife.  If we are lucky we will also be able to learn about womanhood from daughters too.  But more importantly we learn how to show honor to our mothers and respect to women in general in the home by observing how our parents interact and how we are expected and allowed to treat our mother.  This is true of daughters in the home as well.  If boys and girls are allowed to be disrespectful to their mother then the the girls learn to disrespect themselves and boys learn to disrespect women in general.   

So as a manly man it is imperative that you treat your mother respectfully.  This is not only part of the commandment to "honor thy parents" but also gives  you daily detailed practice in respecting womanhood so that you can show proper respect to your wife in years to come.  It has always interested me that the commandment tells us to honor our parents with no regard about our parents honorableness. 

President David O. McKay made the following comment:
"Until 'Where's Mother?' receives no sweet response do the childish minds realize how much Mother has been to them!  Not until her smile and loving presence are but sacred memories do the children know that Mother held a place in their hearts that no one else can fill!  It's an unfortunate phase of human nature that it is always inclined to undervalue its present blessings, that of Mother's and Father's presence being no exception. . . . Not only on one day, then, should we pay tribute to our mothers; but rather make that day the means of increasing our determination and ability to make every day of the year a day in which to honor Mother in particular and every woman who desires to be like Mother" (David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, p. 454-455). 

In addition to our mothers it is important to honor our mother-in-laws.  In my experience it is the mothers in a family that smooth our life along.  We need to acknowledge and appreciate that.  How we accept our mother-in-laws will be very meaningful to our wives as well.  If we honor our mother-in-laws we can free our wives to still learn from their mother's which is all to our benefit as well. 

In order to honor and respect women we must be alert to their goodness and strengths.  We need to value what is admirable and not get caught up in things that are different or have less meaning to us as men.  As we develop as a manly man we will learn to value many characteristics outside of our experience.  We can learn that not only can femininity and masculinity work well together but also can share rolls as needed or desired.  As men we need to learn to value the feelings and experiences of women and recognize their worth not just to children or to the world in general but to us individually.  You need to see the traits of your mother in your own life. 

Our mothers and wives are experts in relationships.  It would be good to learn from their example and recognize that their actions will influence generations while our work outside the home will have a relatively short life span, and it's effect will be felt by few and remembered by less.  Our work in the home, alongside our wife, will have great dividends and be more meaningful to us eventually if not now, than our paycheck or degrees.  Follow your mother's best example and you will see what has worth and that will put other things in their proper perspective as we determine our values and priorities.  
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