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, July 2, 2011

Still Hope

Hope Search project (click here to read more about it) is a research project to see what people hope for or if they have hope in these rough times we live in.  Sometimes when things get really low and things haven't worked out for a while, it seems that there is no hope for change or improvement in the future. 
Some students at BYU Idaho decided to do a research project to see what people still hoped for.  This video is a nice short representation of it.  Watch it and then ask yourself, what do you have hope for?

Romans 8:25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Magnify your calling: The Story of Father Damien

In the church we have a great phrase "magnify your calling" or for the men we often say "magnify your Priesthood".  Of course many of us have used a magnifying glass to look at things.  For example my Dad used to have a good magnifying glass to look at coins when he was trying to determine the value of a coin.  A coin's value is determined by it's condition which typically means how worn it is.  The less worn, then the more worth.  The more worn the less worth.  So a magnifying glass helped a collector be able to see the coin more clearly and determine, based on certain criteria what the worth of the coin was. 
Parable of the talents
In a way we might be able to determine how valuable the Priesthood is to us by seeing what condition our Priesthood is in.  When we see that we use it rarely and don't try to understand it or maybe even pretend we don't have it, then we can see that it has little value to us.  Reminds me of the parable about the talents--the man who buried his talent to "protect" it learned that wasn't the point.  Similarly we should use the Priesthood.  If the Priesthood is magnified then it is enlarged or improved--similar to the other recipients of talents in the parable.  They increased their talents which was what the Lord wanted them to do.  Do we magnify our Priesthood?  Do we use it every chance we get?  Do we ask others if we can use it on their behalf.  In the case of the Priesthood the value may not come in what we do to or for the Priesthood but rather what we allow the Priesthood to do with us.  If we grow, mature and purify ourselves that may be how we magnify the Priesthood, by magnifying our righteousness. 

In October 2010 conference Pres. Monson said: "The priesthood you bear is a special gift, for the giver is the Lord Himself. Use it, magnify it, and live worthy of it."  I think magnifying is to find ways to use it and to make it of worth to others and also when we allow the Priesthood to inspire us to put forth the effort to purify and better ourselfs--the bearers of the Priesthood.

I've wondered about this "magnify" in this context in the past.  I've wondered if the danger wasn't that we would make too big a deal of it, or rather think we are great because we have it.  That we might try to do things that were not part of our responsibility and try to take over other people's responsibilities thinking to enlarge or magnify our calling.  So when I heard the following phrase by Kathleen Hughes back in 2004 I understood her concerns and appreciated what she taught us. 

"I, like many of you, have had numerous callings in the Church. Some have been easier for me than others, but I have tried to magnify each one. But does the phrase “magnify your calling” ever make you nervous? It has worried me! Recently I read a talk in which President Thomas S. Monson said on the subject: “And how does one magnify a calling? Simply by performing the service that pertains to it” (Kathleen Hughes, “Priesthood Power,” Liahona, Jan. 2000, 60; Ensign, Nov. 1999, 51).

In other words, don't bury it or do nothing with it, or avoid opportunities to use it but do the service that is part and parcel with it.  When we magnify the call then we call upon God to magnify us as Henry B. Eyring mentions in the following quote: "Just as God called you and will guide you, He will magnify you. You will need that magnification. Your calling will surely bring opposition. You are in the Master’s service. You are His representative. Eternal lives depend on you. (Oct. 2002 Conference)  So we get magnified when we accept and follow through on the responsibility. 
I recently heard and then read a little about a man who surely magnified his call.  He was not a member of the church but rather was a Catholic Priest from Belgium.  Father Damien was a young man who was a priest like his older brother.  Father Damien wanted to be called to be a missionary and prayed for that regularly.  However, his brother received the call to be a missionary to Hawaii.  At the last minute his brother was sick and Father Damien was asked to go in his stead.  It seems his prayer was answered. 
Eventually Father Damien volunteered to serve the 816  lepers who were quarantined and not allowed to mix with the population who didn't have the disease.  The place where the lepers lived had become a real ghetto with "drunken and lewd" behavior becoming the norm.  He arrived and turned things around.  In addition to building a church and helping the lepers recognize they needed to keep their morals despite their disease, he served the lepers by dressing their wounds, building houses and beds for the lepers, and coffins and buried them when they died.  He returned a cooperation and the rule of law to the group and his encouragement led to schools being built and started to educate the lepers.  Surely he must have thought frequently about the story of the Master healing the ten lepers and wished he could do the same. 

Something he wrote to his brother in 1873 showed the seriousness he took in his work with that population.  "...I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ."  Doesn't it sound like something Paul would have said?  Eleven years later, Father Damien, did indeed contract the disease and five years after that died at the age of 49 literally having taken on the illness of those he had served. 

In a later year Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a letter chiding a detractor of Father Damien:  "But, sir, when we have failed, and another has succeeded; when we have stood by, and another has stepped in; when we sit and grow bulky in our charming mansions, and a plain, uncouth peasant steps into the battle, under the eyes of God, and succours the afflicted, and consoles the dying, and is himself afflicted in his turn, and dies upon the field of honour - the battle cannot be retrieved as your unhappy irritation has suggested. It is a lost battle, and lost for ever. One thing remained to you in your defeat - some rags of common honour; and these you have made haste to cast away."
Maybe we could learn from Father Damien to jump in and do the service that is required for our calling and our Priesthood.  Even if it requires our energy, our effort and even our life.  And then maybe we could share our gratitude with God for the opportunity.
Ten healed lepers, one of which expresses his gratitude.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Girl's camp is not for sissies

I suspect you are thinking that I will write a post about the valiant young ladies and not so young ladies that lead them at girls camp.  That would be a good post, however; my intentions are to write about boys night out that resulted from our wives and daughter's sacrifice to go camping in tents into the wood with 95 degree weather during the day and thunder and lightning storms at night.

Since the women are required to be so strong at girls camp I guess the only reasonable conclusion is that the men in this case are the weak ones.  I am 50 now and can accept that status if indeed it is warranted.  And in this case I enjoy that status as shown by what my good friend and his son and I did while we were celebrating boys night during the week of girl's camp. 
Fred gave me a call and so we had him over for dinner.  I made some yellow squash and onions with a little cheese on top.  For the main dish my daughter (beyond camp age) made some chicken helper.  And later for desert we went to Bruster's ice cream.  I didn't feel bad at all that my wife and daughter along with his wife and daughter's were in the hot and rainy weather being strong while we were enjoying a nice discussion over a delicious sundae in an air conditioned ice cream parlor being weak. 

We dealt with a thunderstorm as we drove to the ice cream parlor.  He recently back from a tour in Afghanistan was driving a little bit odd, too slow, cutting the car off behind us, and staying away from the right side of the road, but we got there and were even smiling and having fun.  A nutty coconut and graham central station sundae went down very nicely.  Now I got to see what the ladies do when we have Priesthood meeting at conference time.  Nice. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

THE Book Stack, oh yeah!

While we were in Utah for my daughter's wedding we visited the art museum on BYU campus and what to our wandering eyes should appear but a stack, I mean a STACK of books.  Pretty amazing that someone would take the time to stack them up like that.  Do you suppose that these books were the ones that are out dated and they are not being used in the classes anymore?  If not then whose stack are they?  I visited special collections while at BYU and I'm for sure that Russ did not allow all those really cool books in special collections to be used this way!  (For more info on BYU library special collections click here)

This was a tremendous stack of books!  I'm glad that I have learned to get rid of some of mine through the years so I didn't have to start making works of art out of my books in the home.  Nowadays with Kindles and Nooks and other eReaders we can have a whole collection on one hand held device.  Maybe in a hundred years they will be making art of stacks of e-readers and books will be stored on hard drives connected to our brains via brain wave matching, so only we can access them.  Who knows what will be next? 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Marriage: get on with it.

This post is written in answer to a post on Modern Mormon Men blog written by Matt Lipps.  Please read his post by clicking here.  It will make my post even more understandable!
When I was a young man aged 18 I was planning on a mission.  I had been planning for years.  Maybe because of my uncle who was a missionary for another church and had served his life as a missionary to Haiti and was celibate throughout, it was impressed in my mind that a mission was JUST for two years and then we were expected to get onto the even more important business of building a family.  Consequently, and unusually I'll bet, I studied to be a husband and parent for years before I served a mission.  Yes, I read books on the subject, but probably more importantly I paid attention to several examples around me.  I paid attention to my Dad and Mom and how they related to each other.  I watched my sister and her husband and learned all kinds of good things for my eventual marriage.  The married ward members provided me with supplimental material as I paid attention to the little ways they showed that they cared about each other...or not.

Now I don't tell you that to make all Mormon young men think that is what they should be doing with their time.  After all, I just did that with a little bit of my time.  I still liked playing and watching sports, adventures, and of course girls.  What I am trying to say is that I think most of us have noticed some of these things about the relationships going on around us.  We have likely noted things to do and not to do in a marriage relationship from our parents.  Consequently, we are not without preparation.  Even if you have been totally inattentive or lacking in opportunity and missed it growing up, you now have time to start paying attention, learning and preparing for marriage.
So many people are worried that they are not ready to get married.  I doubt very many people can be ready due to the fact that generally we cannot anticipate adequately most of the ways that marriage requires us to learn, grow, stretch, and repent.  All we have to be is committed to the institution of marriage by accepting that it is the pattern that we need to be a part of in our life and then to choose a person (note, I do not say fall in love) but choose a person that we decide we will love and commit to not stop loving them.  Voila you have a marriage ready to start and then can get down to the real work of marriage after the ceremony.   

The real work of marriage is of course making it last forever.  If we worry over much about getting ready to marry we will be tempted to think that the work is over when we are married.  Admittedly it does feel like that after you have gone through an engagement and done all the preparation that our society demands to get married; but that is just the beginning.  Now begins the real work of learning, respecting, repenting, loving, growing spiritually and every other way, caring, accepting our weaknesses and making them into strengths or at least adequately kick-starting the change, forgiving, sacrificing and the many other things that are a part of marriage.  Then after that foundation--whether months or years--have children and dig deeper into all the things you thought you had learned, because now you have to know them well enough to teach someone else--not just think you know them enough to get by--but really know them inside and out. 
I suspect that there are additional major transitions in married life yet to come that I haven't experienced yet.  Maybe the transition we call empty nest which some might say should be called "empty next".  Then what about maintaining a marriage through the older years of loss and infirmity.  Caring enough for each other to still love even when your spouse, or maybe you, can't show it in the same ways.  Possibly finally showing that we will not forget our love, our promises and our covenants when only one of us remains here alive.  Marriage and family life are so full of transitions, major and jarring transitions (sometimes) that we can't possibly prepare for them all adequately and yet we need to move forward through them and beyond when they occur.  And don't forget learning all the cumulative lessons along the way.

You see my wife and I married shortly after each of us returned from a mission.  We had minimal money, not even a car for the first couple years we were married.  We didn't find that college courses nor low income were good enough reasons to not start having children right away.  And when our first child was born dead we continued on despite the loss and pain.  Why should we be spared the pain that many others go through?  We learned about each other and used our challenges as methods to learn to trust and depend on each other.  We always kept building our relationship and love for each other.  There were frustrations, lack of money sometimes, always plenty of ways to spend what money we did have, but we wouldn't allow that to define our marriage or each of us individually.  We even had joy throughout!  Maybe not always as much as we hoped for but enough to let us know that life was good and that we were on the right track. 

My wife and I knew each other as missionaries.  When I returned home seven months before her from our mission I knew it was time to get going on the part of life that would really define me: husband and father.  So when I considered my options a lightbulb went off in my mind when I thought I would like to marry someone like Lisa.  Why not her?!  Well there wasn't a good reason, so I waited until she finished her mission and flew to her state shere she picked me up from the airport and I asked her to marry me.  Yup, it was our first date. 
I know that in this day and age of caution and distrust, when we wonder if people are who they really seem to be and worry if they will continue in the same upward trajectory over the next many years that we find it hard to trust enough to choose.  Often we either go with our hormones alone or give up and back out.  Many let fear and uncertainty take control and we exclude ourselves until temptation or failure overcomes us.  We have a resource to help and guide us (I'm talking about God here and not just parents and siblings and etc.), we have our own best efforts and our willingness to commit.  Maybe I am most clear on the fact that I know I personally have a great influence on how things turn out--maybe we could call that confidence or maybe it is stupidity, you choose.  Sure there is much outside of my control, but I prefer to see and accept and use what is within my control to work toward the goals that I choose and have covenanted to work toward. 

The preparation for marriage was helpful, but the experience of living marriage was more worthwhile.  Reading and watching got me thinking but reality got me acting in the ways I needed to act.  Marriage is a fantastic way to learn who you really are and then repent and be better.  The best preparation for a man is not the books or even the observation (though still valuable).  The best preparation is an honorable mission.  It will probably not make you feel ready for marriage and fatherhood, but it will start or strenthen your confidence and provide humility enough for growth.  Missions also are great for young women to help them prepare for marriage.  In their case however (possibly because they are older when they serve) it seems to polish the confidence and humility and etc. that they already had inklings of. 
Oh, and a note about fears of getting married.  Heavenly Father isn't the author of fear, rather he is the author of hope.  Hope that like faith requires work and effort to make meaningful.  So ditch the fear stuff and get on with it.  If you have some emotional problems or special circumstances than get some help for those to get in better shape.  If not then carry on, move forward and see what all the marriage hullabaloo is about.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Music #13: Francesca Battistelli: Beautiful, Beautiful

Francesca Battistelli has grown into a good Christian Singer.  Many of her songs have good strong faith filled lyrics that are encouraging to those trying to follow Christ in a world that seems headed in other directions. Francesca grew up in Florida in a musical family.  Her music is in the pop/rock style that appeals to young people but I enjoy her music as well.  She was in her first group when she was 15 and performed a lot.  After that group disbanded she decided to do the music that she wanted which was Christian music.  Now she is married and has had her first child.  She is maturing and growing up in the music industry that can be hard to stay grounded in. 
She is maturing in her Christian attitudes as evidenced by this quote from her web site: "The more you walk in relationship with the Lord, the more you learn to trust him. I'm learning not to focus so much on the issues I think are so big right now—our bus has broken down, or someone said something that frustrated me. I'm learning to slowly let things roll off my back, to say, 'Hey, God knew about this before it happened and He's got a way out or a plan better than mine.' I've learned to stop freaking out and just trust that God knows what he's doing. He's not going to leave me in a bad place because He never has before."
The song I have chosen to highlight today is called Beautiful Beautiful.  It is a song that I understand as teaching how we can change and grow when we recognize and allow ourselves to be influenced by the Savior. 

Words and music by Francesca Battistelli, Ian Eskelin, and Andrew Fromm.

Here are the lyrics: 

Don’t know how it is You looked at me
And saw the person that I could be
Awakening my heart
Breaking through the dark
Suddenly Your grace
Like sunlight burning at midnight
Making my life something so
Beautiful, beautiful
Mercy reaching to save me
All that I need
You are so
Beautiful, beautiful
Now there’s a joy inside I can’t contain
But even perfect days can end in rain
And though it’s pouring down
I see You through the clouds
Shining on my face
I have come undone
But I have just begun
Changing by Your grace

This song comes from the album My Paper Heart.
Francesca Battistelli, Beautiful, Beautiful

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Manly Man Training #17 :Be in motion not going through the motions.

As manly men we don't want to be stuck, in a rut or bogged down to a slow pace.  We want to be in motion, moving forward, learning, growing, improving, reaching toward and eventually achieving our potential.  The speed is not the critical part here, but rather the direction and that fact that we are moving.  Maybe sometimes we can take a few strides at a good pace and others we will move along slowly.  Undoubtedly we will sometimes see we detoured and need to double back to get on the path--in those cases the quicker the better.  Ideally however we will move forward at a moderate pace in the right direction without looking back.

Sometimes though we find ourselves "going through the motions".  President Uchtdorf addressed this in Priesthood meeting when he said, "you may want to ask yourself if you are merely going through the motions as a priesthood bearer--doing what is expected but not experiencing the joy that should be yours.  Holding the priesthood gives us abundant opportunities to feel the joy that Ammon expressed: "Have we not great reason to rejoice?...We have been instruments in [the Lord's] hands of doing this great marvelous work.  Therefore, let us the Lord; yea, we will rejoice." (Ensign May 2011 p60-61)

Life is for feeling joy and happiness.  Okay, not every minute and often not every day.  But going through the motions doesn't get that feeling and we need it to keep us motivated.  Going through the motions is a downward spiral that must be interrupted by pure joy and happiness. Naturally doing the Lord's work with real intent should break through the blahs and bring in the joy.

Colossians 3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.

I understand this to mean, realize who you are doing this for and go for it, don't do it like "government work" (as in the phrase, "its good enough for government work").  Do your best, MAGNIFY it and see what blessings come from God.

Pres. Uchtdorf says:: "Too often we fail to experience the bliss that comes from daily, practical priesthood service.  At times assignments can feel like burdens.  Brethren, let us not pass through life immersed in the three Ws: wearied, worrying, and whining.  We live beneath our privileges when we allow worldly anchors to keep us away from the abundant joy that comes from faithful and dedicated priesthood service, especially within the walls of our own homes.  We live beneath our privileges when we fail to partake of the feast of happiness, peace, and joy that God grants so bountifully to faithful priesthood servants."

I once heard of a youth that said something like, "I don't like coming to church, no one does, except for Brother L".  Brother L, smiled and was happy at church and greeted and treated others with respect like he was glad they were joining him at church. 

Watch this video and listen to the song, the message is right on target.
Matthew West: The Motions
"As bearers of the priesthood, let us never become hardened to the wonder and awe of what the Lord has entrusted to us."  -- Pres. Uchtdorf
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