Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Loss of a Friend

I received a call the other day from a female friend of mine.  I couldn't understand her at first.  Her voice was elevated.  She was talking rapidly with a mixture of panic and grief.  I finally got her to calm down enough so that I could understand what she was saying.

Through tears and weeping, she told me that another single friend of ours, a single mother, had taken her own life and also the life of her nine year old daughter.  Both bodies had been lying in their home for days, their spirits long gone.

I sat in utter shock.  Not knowing what to say.  This was not something that I ever expected to hear.  I had known this single mother for awhile.  I knew from what she had shared with us all that she had her struggles both financial and emotional but at the same time, she was fun, attractive and full of enthusiasm.

I had discovered in my time knowing her that this single mom and I had something in common.  We both loved to sing.  We had spent some time together at a birthday party singing our guts out to a karaoke machine.  I thought I was pretty decent until she got up.  Her voice was rich and full and powerful.  She had a real talent and everyone at the party just loved listening to her.

I had associated with her here and there.  She was part of our singles group.  I felt and still do feel like we are all part of a family of people in a similar situation.  Many of us had not anticipated being single at this time in our lives.  We come together to have fun, make friends, and to support one another.  Occasionally one of us will pair off and move on to the next stage of life with a partner.  We celebrate with them when this happens.

This single mom had every reason to have hope in a good future.  Of course she had her challenges just like we all do, but she was young and full of talents and had a wonderful nine year old daughter. I met some of her family members at a candlelight vigil that we held for her.  They described this woman as nothing like the person that acted out in such an incomprehensible way.  They loved this dear sister. They told wonderful and entertaining stories about her.  They described her as a loving and kind human being.

What could have possessed her to to commit such a desperate act?  What could have been going on in her head? Didn't she know that she was loved by many?

The short version of the story is that this single mother struggled for years with mental illness.  She had been diagnosed.  Some of her family believed that this mental illness combined with medication she was on after a recent surgery and the difficulties she had been experiencing in her personal life combined to break her psyche.  I think that they are probably correct in their assessment.

This sudden loss has reverberated like a shockwave throughout our whole singles community.  We were all floored.  Some reacted in righteous indignation for the waste of life and the barbarism committed against an innocent child.  Others held their heads in their hands and just wept.  Some did a little of both.  Both of these reactions are perfectly understandable.

What I decided to do is to reserve my judgement on this single mother.  Thankfully I am not her judge.  I don't want to be.  Was her act wrong?  Of course it was.  In no way was it justifiable.  Was she suffering mentally and emotionally?  Certainly.  Was she thinking clearly on that fateful day?  Certainly not.

What I do know is that the Savior knows the whole story in perfect crystal clarity.  He knows all the variables, including all the circumstances surrounding the event, the life history of the person involved, the mental and emotional state and a thousand other factors.  I am so glad that he can administer perfect justice and mercy.  I have complete faith that he is handling the situation in exactly the right way.

What is very clear to me is that I lost a friend and a sister.  Her life was precious.  She was a daughter of God.  She made my life better by knowing her.  Her loss is a great one and it affects hundreds if not thousands of people.  Should we not mourn for the loss of our friend?  Should we not pray for her eventual healing and recovery?  Should we not mourn for the child?  At least we know that she is in a great place to meet her maker.  She is innocent and pure.

I look forward to someday understanding completely the justice and mercy of our Lord.  I am so grateful that I am in my right mind to understand and appreciate the blessings that I have in my own life.  I don't suffer from mental illness, thankfully.

We need to understand that we are all children of God, and not only that, that we are all connected to each other as brothers and sisters.  Each of our lives affects each other.  If we could see with spiritual eyes, we would see the ties that bind us together.  We would be able to see the ripple effects of our actions on each other for both good and evil.

My message is this.  We need to notice each other. We need to love each other.  We need to reach out to one another and if we ever come to the point where we think we would be better off not on this planet, we need to think again.  We need to reach out to our God and our friends and family here on earth.  Our lives are valuable.  We need to keep moving forward both loving and serving each other until our Heavenly Father calls us home.

Right now I wish to make a promise to you. I promise that I will wait and serve until I'm called home to the God who gave me life. I will not check out early.  I will serve with you as your brother and will mourn with you when you mourn.  I will comfort you when you stand in need of comfort.  Will you do the same for me?

We love and miss our friend.  I pray for her and her family.  I wish to witness her healing by divine hands.  I know you wish the same.

Blessings to you all my friends.  We are all part of the same family.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Speak No Evil of the Lord's Annointed

There was a time in my life when I was very young and idealistic; a time when I thought that there was nothing that could stop me.  I was energetic.  I believed all things and hoped all things.  I still do, or course, but I've grown up since then.

I know much better how the Lord works now.  I get how he lets us struggle for our own good.  I know how he doesn't look at pain and challenge the same way we do.  I have a much better attitude about life's injustices now, though I admit that I do not relish those experiences when they happen to me.  I do see their value down the line.  Sometimes it takes years, but I do learn.

I had an experience when I was young and zealous.  At the time I didn't understand in the way that I do now, human frailty and weakness.  In my world, all church leaders should have been gifted, understanding and inspirational and I guess in a perfect world, they still would be.  But we do not live in that perfect world.  We live in the world of good and evil and varying shades of gray.

In my young state, I happened upon a church leader who rubbed me wrong.  Without going into detail, I felt like this leader made all the wrong decisions.  I felt like he did not connect with me or have any understanding of who I was.  I felt like this leader favored the disobedient and elevated their status.  When I went to this leader for help, he did not have anything to offer.  I felt at the time that the Lord had abandoned me and that he had left me alone and sick and in a foreign land.

My hurt began to compound.  One thought led to another and to another and I began to doubt all the leaders in my church.  Bitterness began to grow in my breast and I soon began to question the sacred testimony that had been given to me as a child and that I had nurtured in my youth.  I felt darkness begin to creep in and it scared me.  In my dark moments I cried out to God and pleaded for him not to let me fall.

As I look back on it now, I realize that the Lord did hear and answer my prayers.  He sent me friends who lightened my heart and helped to distract me from the darkness.  He taught me a new way to live and perceive life and my fellow human beings.  In short, he taught me to love.

You see, I was like a young colt back then.  I was full of strength and potential, but I was inexperienced.  I was good but was on a path that was not completely the right one.  Had I continued, I could have grown in arrogance and pride.  I would not have developed the love that I carry now.  In short, I would have lost out.  The Lord in his mercy broke me.  I needed to be broken and a new foundation laid that would lead me to greater love and happiness than I was then capable of understanding or accepting.  What happened to me was merciful.  I needed it.  I do not now question the Lord regarding this experience.  I thank him for it.

This leader I spoke of, though not perfect, was a good man.  He had sacrificed a lot to serve as my leader.  No, he did not possess all the things that I thought were important, but he was doing his best.  Had I been more humble at the time, I could have learned from him.  Of course he had talents and experience that I did not have.  Looking back now, I could have helped him be more successful by sustaining and supporting him instead of reacting in anger and outrage at what I perceived were faults and mistakes.  I would have been happier myself, had I taken that tact.  But I was young then.  I didn't know what I didn't know.  I needed to be broken and I thank my Heavenly Father that he loved me enough to break me and rebuild me.  I believe I am a better person now and I believe that what happened was a divine tutorial provided to me by a loving Heavenly Father.

Are you experiencing a divine tutorial yourself?  I believe this life and all that we experience is just that, and that if we do not turn away in our bitterness, that all our wounds will be bound up and healed and all our tears turned to gladness.

Love you my brothers and sisters.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Being Alone: The Savior Knows

The Savior knows about being alone.  Think of him.  When he he carried his cross, he was alone.  When he suffered in Gethsemane, he was alone.  When he was taken up on the mount and tempted of Lucifer, he was alone.  Can you imagine what it would have been like growing up as the Savior with no one else to relate to?  No one who could really understand the depths of his soul?  I cannot fathom it.  Can you imagine the Savior as young boy so wanting friendship with his peers and love from the adults around him yet feeling so different? He didn't think like young boys his age.  How do you think that made him appear to them? Would it have endeared him to them or would it cause him hurt and isolation?  Do you think his brothers and sisters understood him?  Did they feel that their mother and father treated him differently, thus causing resentment?  Did they envy him?  Did those in the community ostracize him.  I'm not sure.  The scriptures don't give us every detail.  But I know this.  The Savior felt the sting of loneliness very often in life.

Think of Him as a young man.  Do you think he didn't desire to find his true love and marry? Do you think just any young woman would do?  It would have to be one incredible woman to be willing to be the wife of the Savior and to be a match for him.  How do you think he felt knowing that his life was going to be cut short, that he would have to leave her in this fallen world?

I imagine him feeling so burdened at times even though he was surrounded by family and disciples.  Who could relieve him of the weight or even carry it for a short time?  No one.  Who could he talk to beside His Father in fervent prayer?  I can only imagine that the Father would have had to impart his Spirit frequently and indeed the Savior walked full of the Spirit to a greater degree than anyone. Yet in his hour of grand bitterness that spirit was withdrawn. He was once again left alone and in agony.

When I think of this, I realize more and more that my loneliness cannot compare to his.  His path I could not walk nor could I even drink a thimble full of the bitterness that he tasted.  Yet to me, at times, loneliness finds it way back and sneaks up on me unaware.  I then complain bitterly to the Lord and ask him to relieve me of the burden of loneliness.

This he does, leaving me with comfort and assurance, sending my children to lift me, providing dear friends to buoy me up and make my heart glad.  He grants me meaningful work,  and calls me to holy callings and clothes me with his spirit. He answers my prayers.

Brothers and Sisters.  I cannot complain.  I do not feel justified in doing so.  I see the Lord's creations everyday and I witness his miracles.  As I give, I am filled again.  For the good that I do, I am repaid many fold.

Of course there are still things that I lack and my heart still yearns for them. But I hold my faith strong.  I know that in the due time of the Lord, all will be restored.  All tears will cease and we all will mount up on wings of eagles and the day will come when we shall all sit down together and feast at the table of the Lord.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Finding the One. Easy for Some. Hard for Others.

I hear non stop in the circles I'm in on Facebook how gosh darn difficult it is to find a marriage match especially at age 40, 50 and beyond.  Constantly I hear the lamentations of many of us crying out about the injustice and the impossible odds against us of ever finding the right one.  I'm also repeatedly told how easy we men have it and how the odds are all in our favor, and what's wrong with you picky men, waiting for the perfect 10 to arrive who also is spiritual and a great mother and who will love and accept your kids.  It goes on and on and on.

Hey, I get it.  I know where these feelings are coming from.  They come from a place of deep frustration. They come from a place of natural desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves, a place where we experience the ultimate human connection.  I know.  I have these feelings hit me sometimes too. I'm human also.  We all long for that special something that we are missing.  We were designed this way.  I've been divorced for awhile now, but the reality is that whether you've been divorced a month or fifteen years, you still have the same feelings.  You still want what you want. You still have a desire for that connection.

I went to a fireside tonight and the young charismatic speaker told us all that we need to be doing more to find "the one."  His point was that we need to do the work in order to attract the right kind of partner in our lives.  Well, ok.  I guess that could be true for some of us.  Some people do need to get out of their comfort zones, leave their fear and self pity behind and get in the game.  He told the story of how he experienced a short marriage of 3 years and then was left by his wife for his best friend.  He then spent a year on his own, single, before being set up with the girl of his dreams and marrying her and having beautiful children with her.   He said he went the extra mile and worked hard to prepare himself to meet his future wife and then she just appeared.

To be honest, I'm very happy for the young man.  I don't begrudge him in any way.  It's terrific that he was blessed to find his eternal mate.  I think I will blessed in that way someday too and so will all of us who desire it.  But what I would have said, had I been giving the talk is that we can't control how and when blessings like that come.  I learned a long time ago that I am not in charge down here, the Lord is.  I could work all day and night thinking of nothing but finding my future wife.  The reality is that this kind of thinking could actually do the opposite for me instead of producing the desired results.

I suppose if I really wanted to, I could convince some unsuspecting woman to marry me.  I think there might be one or two that I might be able to talk into it. But just because you can do something, does that mean you should?  I have lived long enough and have had enough experience in life to know that it's much better to be happily single than in a torturous relationship or marriage.  I won't stand for that.  I'm not a masochist.  I'll live with my loneliness albeit it bitter at times, but much more fulfilling than the aforementioned alternative.

The truth is that the Lord is in charge of how and when he will bless us and with which type of blessings.  I cannot force him to send the girl of my dreams to my doorstep until he is good and ready and if I know anything, he expects me to be out there doing something and not just waiting around.  I will not marry again until I know that it is right and that my life will be better than it is now in my single state.  Remember, there are much worse things than being single.

If I had been giving the talk, I would have taken a different tact.  I would say this.  Live your life the best you can.  Live in the now and rejoice in the blessings of the present.  Learn, love and serve all those around you.  Accept the present reality and enjoy all the advantages it provides.  This period is temporary.  Now is the time to prepare to meet God.  The Lord will lead us the way we need to go.  Learn to be still and listen to Him.  Pray for the strength to face your challenges and to carry your burdens.  Sooner or later, the Lord will bless each one of us with a spouse again if that is truly our

Working harder to find a spouse is not the answer for me.  I already work hard.  I don't need to work harder.  What I need is to serve and wait upon the Lord for his perfect timing to align.  Until that time comes, I will do my best to keep raising my children in righteousness, to serve my family, friends and ward members.  I will work to overcome my weaknesses and to develop my talents.  When the Lord finally helps me make that connection with someone special, no one will be more ecstatic and joyful than me.  That I can assure you of.

Let's do what we can now, brothers and sisters.  Let's not wait until that glorious day when we meet our future spouse.  If we aren't happy single, why do you think we will somehow become happy married?  Happiness is a choice.  Let's make that choice and live.  Let's choose love and happiness right here, right now.

Blessings to you all!

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Tennis Story for Budding Young Tennis Stars

I was losing this tennis match the other day and I wasn't liking it. The heat was bearing down so hard at just under 100 degrees Fahrenheit that I couldn't think straight. I willed my body to move but I felt like a bag of wet towels just pulled out of the washing machine. "Move your feet!" I kept telling myself. "Wake up! Your energy will kick in any minute now."

I had felt sluggish from the beginning. I felt none of my usual spark. I wasn't feeling great that day to begin with and now I was down 5-2 in the first set. I squinted my eyes and peered toward the other side of the court where my opponent was preparing to serve.

Pow! His first serve came flat from his racket at high velocity down the middle of the service line on the deuce side, a perfect ace. 15 - Love.

I moved to the add side. This time he hit his first serve into the net. His second serve was softer and I moved forward to take it, trying desperately to hit my lefty cross court forehand winner. The angle was good but I went for too much and the return flew wide. 30 - Love. Dang it!

I moved to the deuce side again. This time I blocked back a hard first serve and began a rally. After several strokes I managed to pull him wide to my right. My opponent scrambled to get to it and managed to send a bullet back, but it went into the net. 30-15.

The next two points and the first set were lost by a forehand slice into the net and an overzealous lob attempt on my part. Dang! What a disaster! I was down a set and hadn't even tested my opponent yet. What was wrong with me? I couldn't move. I was dieing of thirst, and the only way to win now was to fight my way back to take two consecutive sets. The heat was stifling and I could see that even my opponent had started to slow down some.

The second set started better. I had been getting beat when I approached the net so I decided to only approach when I had a good reason, like a short weak ball from my opponent or an exceptionally good approach shot. It began to dawn on me that the longer I could keep him in a rally the better chance I had of winning the point. He was prone to over hitting so if I was patient it might work to my advantage. I took the first game.

Little by little I began to notice a few other chinks in his armor that I might take advantage of. One was that he liked to charge the net. This had worked to his advantage in the first set. I began to concentrate on hitting deeper balls to him and moving him back and forth along the base line. Soon I had him running more than me which is always a good sign in a match. I went up 3-2 in the second set.

Next, I began to notice that when my opponent approached the net, he would come straight up the center leaving a nice gap for my down the line forehand. I passed him several times on this and his advantage at the net began to erode. I reduced my own net errors by choosing my spots to approach. It was so hot and I was so tired I wasn't too anxious to go to my weaker net game anyway. I'm not bad at the net in doubles but I haven't worked it all out in the singles game yet. I went up 5-3.

Lastly, I began to slow down on my stroke, not the stroke speed, but the stroke timing. I've always been a little quick on the draw. I concentrated on letting the ball drop a little more and I made sure that I didn't travel if I could help it during the shot. If I got my front foot down and waited for the ball to drop more, I could hit a more effective ground stroke with topspin or under spin. I won the second set. 6-3.

Now, what to do in the third and final set? Remember, I was exhausted and it was almost 100 degrees out. We both were dieing. If I could manage to win this one, the match would be mine. I decided to stick with what had helped me in the second set. He hadn't been been able to stop me with those tactics so why was I going to change now? It turned out that I was right to stick with it. I ended up winning the last set 6-2 by continuing to do what was working for me.

By the end of the match, we both nearly collapsed from heat exhaustion but I came out the happier of the two of us. I won 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. So children, here's the moral of the story. Here's what I learned.

1. In tennis as in life, you never give up at any point no matter how bad you are losing or how bad you feel.

2. In tennis as in life, you figure out what it is you are doing wrong and stop doing it.

3. In tennis as in life, you figure out what is right and keep doing it.

4. In tennis as in life, when you go off course, you make on court adjustments. You don't keep doing the same thing that doesn't work over and over again and you don't wait 'till the next day. You do it now!

5. Always be nice and obey your parents. Oops! How did that get in there? It's good advice anyway, so do that too!

Finally, lest you think that I'm boasting here, you should know that I've lost as many matches as I've won so far. The one thing I can say is that I learn from every match, win or lose.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Inspiration and Learning to Listen

Ever since I was a small boy, I was enthralled by the idea of God.  I felt a wondrous and divine connection with my creator.  I just knew there was a Father in Heaven and I knew that I was his son.  I grew up feeling special.  I felt like I had big things to accomplish for the Lord and I just knew that he would be with me and that we would be performing great miracles in this world together.  I know that this may sound presumptuous, but it is how I felt when I was a boy.  I felt the pure wonder of the heavens around me and I had the energy to throw myself into the work and ministry of bringing souls unto Christ.  I did this and I shared the gospel with my friends. Had I been born into another church, I might have said that I felt called to the ministry.

Over the many years since then, I have learned much.  I have passed through many difficulties and my spirit has been tempered considerably.  I know something about how hard and unfair life can be.  I have had my heart broken and my spirit nearly broken as well.  I have had my childhood exuberant faith challenged to the core more than once.  I know now that I am nothing, and as to my strength, I am weak.  I know now that every breath I take is granted unto me.  I know now that life is fragile and that I could just as easily slip to the other side of the veil as continue to live on this side. But I suppose that there is enough of that young irrepressible boy left in me that I continue to try to testify of the truth.  I do it both verbally and in the written word.  That is why I continue to write this blog.  I can't help myself.  I must share what I feel.  That is what is inside of me.  My gift is to communicate and that is what I do despite my own weakness and imperfection.

I want to express that my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ does not come to me based on any of the incredible and miraculous experiences so often spoken of in the scriptures via dreams, visions, or heavenly visitations.  I have desired to experience those kinds of sacred experiences all my life, but  to this date, I have never experienced any of those things things to any great degree.  When I hear about sacred experiences occurring  in our day with different people, I am always so interested to hear or read about them.  I am very open to the notion that Heavenly Father can and does communicate in that way with those whom he chooses for his own purposes.

I no longer feel that I have been passed over because I have not had these types of experiences.  I have grown in the understanding that the Lord knows best how to bring me along.  I think that in my particular case that the way to make me strong is to is to have me learn to discern and listen with my mind and my heart.  That is the way that my life has been patterned.  I have not had the privilege of having Lord part the veil for me although I have begged him to explain to me the reason why certain things have gone the way they have.  I have implored him at times to please open a panoramic vision of the plan for me to see everything in crystal clear detail. That has not been necessary for me nor would it have been the best thing for me.  Mine has been to walk the path of faith.  Faith is believing in those things we can't see, but are true.  If a man sees something in plain site, does he still need to have faith that it exists?

I now take it as a compliment that the Lord has worked with me in this way.  It shows that he trusts me and has a knowledge that he can communicate with me without shouting and without having to show me proof.  I have had countless promptings, intuitions, inklings of inspiration, words spoken to me in my mind, feelings of great peace and love, feelings of burning in my bosom.  I have had the spirit of prophecy with me as I have given blessings.  I have had a "stupor of thought" at times which has caused me to forget the things that I was considering that were not right which saved me heartache in the end.  I have experienced the gift of tongues while I preached the gospel in Spanish as a missionary in another country.  I have been given the gift to communicate spiritual things to both individuals and groups.  The truth is that I have had a multitude of spiritual communication provided to me that continues to this day.

I do not think I am alone in this in any way.  I know that all of us have some or many of these gifts along with many others.  The main thing, in my estimation, is to learn how to tune into spiritual communication from the Lord.  I believe that He is trying to communicate with us everyday but because of our preoccupations we miss many of his messages.  Sometimes we are so busy, we don't take the time to listen.  Other times we indulge ourselves in grief past the time of grieving, or we are angry past the time of justified anger and thus we put chains on ourselves and we don't receive the communication and healing that our Father is trying to provide.

My suggestion is this.  Learn to be still.  Learn to be quite and attentive.  Try to listen with your heart as well as your mind.  Be open to receive both healing and intelligence.  Put away your anger.  Put away your grief and learn to listen.  This is not easy but it is something that everyone of us can work on and with time, we will all become wise and become masters in learning to hear the voice of the Lord in our lives.

The last thing is to act when you receive a prompting.  President Eyering says, that if we follow the promptings we are given, we will receive more promptings and intelligence.  The converse is true as well.  If we ignore promptings, we will receive less of them.  "For what profiteth a man if he is given a gift and he receives not that gift?"  The Lord will withhold those blessings and wait until a person is penitent and comes seeking again.

In conclusion I say, value all gifts and be grateful to the Giver of those gifts.  We all have them, weather they be wisdom, learning, prophecy, visions, discernment, charity or any number of things.  We are all children of our loving Father.

Bless you all and let's continue to move forward together my dear brothers and sisters.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Brush with My Own Mortality

I had planned to write a glorious post about all the recent blessings I've been receiving as of late.  There has been lots to talk about in terms of priesthood blessings received, sacred callings to church service, jobs provided, improving health and chances to develop talents etc.  The good things have been plentiful.  I was truly in the rosiest situation I had been in years.  All very orchestrated by heaven I know.

It had been over 3 years since the divorce and much of the hurt had dissipated.  My relationship with my children has always remained strong.  Goals were continuing to be worked on.  Hope was still high that I would eventually find the right partner etc.

But as we know, life is not without opposition.

  • 2 Nephi 2:11

    11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
    Such is the case with me and with all of us.  If we are looking for a life with no challenges and continued and unmitigated success, we have come to the wrong planet. We Mormons believe that we lived before we came to this earth.  This is a truth that has been lost to most of the world yet we know it fervently.  Our souls were not just created on the day of our births into this world.  We are eternal beings who lived with our heavenly parents for eons before accepting our assignments for growth here on this world.  We all knew what we signed up for before coming to this earth and we accepted that life was going to be full of challenges, reversals, pain, sickness and yes suffering.  We knew that it is the only way to grow.  It is the only way to gain the attributes that our Heavenly Father has.  It is the only way to become like him and that only if we choose to accept and learn from our suffering in the holy way designed by him.  We can choose not to participate in this program and go on to curse God and the universe.  That is our right.  But that's not who I am.  That's never been who I am and I pray that it's not you either.
    So after I had been enjoying a some of the blessings of life I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that some opposition hit me.

    In early January I got sick and had trouble breathing.  I thought this was a result of my asthma, which played a minor part, but little did I know that I had aspirated something into my right lung which caused me to develop an abscess of some kind which can only be described as a big ball of bloody puss.  The chest X-rays I had done could not detect this abscess.  It was hidden by my diaphragm.  One night after attempting to get medical help via my doctor and Instacare, I awoke unable to to take a full breath.  Every time I inhaled I felt as if a knife was being plunged into my right chest cavity.  I got up at 3:00 am and stumbled around my apartment hoping that somehow this feeling would dissipate but it wouldn't.  I began to panic because I couldn't breathe.  It felt like a combination of being stabbed in the chest and also feeling like I was drowning at the same time.  Around 4:00 AM, I called my parents who live upstairs from me for help.  I couldn't even talk.  They came immediately and my Mom called 911 for me because I couldn't speak without coughing and sputtering uncontrollably.

    Soon the EMTs arrived and gave me a breathing treatment for asthma.  They kept telling me my oxygen levels were good, but I couldn't breathe despite that.  I could not expand my chest cavity.  I could only shallow breathe like a humming bird.  Soon they loaded me up in an ambulance and I arrived at the University of Utah Hospital a few minutes later.  After more chest X-rays and eventually a CT Scan they discovered the abscess.  They diagnosed me with the abscess and pneumonia and admitted me to the hospital.

    I spent the next 13 days there.  I was blessed with very good care from the doctors and nurses but there was plenty of discomfort to experience.  I was coughing a lot and every time I did, it hurt again like a knife being stuck into me.  I also coughed so hard that it would make me gag like I was throwing up.  Nothing came up from my stomach, but plenty of that bloody puss came up from my lung on a regular basis.

    The doctors decided to put a chest tube into my right lung area where they located most of the fluid build up.  I had like a little portable suitcase attached to me and the chest tube.  Soon I drained out about 2.5 liters of the aforementioned bloody puss.  One of the hard aspects of this was the fact that the doctors had to come in 12 separate times to inject medicine into the tube which would break up all the compartments and crystallization that my lungs built to contain the puss.  When they injected this medicine I could feel and even almost hear bubbles popping and crackling inside my chest.  A couple of times the medicine would find its' way up into my throat and then I would start to cough again profoundly and spit up more of the bloody puss while they were injecting me.  It was awful.

    The night before they placed the chest tube into my chest cavity I was forbidden to eat or drink after midnight.  The only problem was that I had a cold with all this pneumonia and for some reason my throat and mouth completely dried up in the night.  I felt like I was going to die.  I was like a man in the desert.  I was parched and the nurses didn't want to give me anything because of the procedure that I was going to have in the morning.  I told them that they had to at least bring me some ice chips or I wasn't going to make it.  This they did reluctantly.  I had to wait for my procedure till the following afternoon because there were other patients that were in a more serious condition than myself.  That was one of the worst nights I ever have had on this earth.  I think that the nurses could have given me more fluids in my IV that night, but for some reason I don't think this was done.  They took care of it the next time.  They later removed the chest tube and put a new one into a different location in my chest cavity.  I didn't push out as much puss with the second chest tube, but it did get some out.  They told me that the fluid was extremely thick and that is why is was hard to drain.

    I spent my time in the hospital watching the tennis Australian Open and the NFL Playoffs.  I got to see my Atlanta Falcons win their division and secure a place in the Super Bowl.  I also had many visitors come including many family members and friends that I have made since being single.  All of the visits were a blessing to me.  One of my good friends from the single world came and did a foot zone treatment on me using essential oils that she determined that my body needed.  She rubbed these oils into my feet and also massaged the many pressure points.  I actually felt heat leave my body as she did this and it was the only time in the hospital that I actually felt good for a little while.  I greatly appreciated my friend's kindness in doing that for me.  Others also came and rubbed my back and feet and some helped me go on walks in the hospital.  They were angels in human form.  Also many came and just talked with me.  That was very therapeutic as well.  There is nothing worse when you're sick to sit around and talk about your problems.  It's so much better to talk about other things, news, sports, spirituality, family, anything other than focusing on your own issues.

    Also during this ordeal I experienced an extreme lack of protein which caused me to swell up around my stomach and down my right leg and ankle.  Although I had lost all appetite for weeks I was carrying water around my stomach which made me look fat.  It looked like a jelly belly that would wiggle and jiggle when I moved.  I hated that.   My face had grown skinny with the lack of eating but my belly was all swollen up.  I guess I'm too vain!  I don't like my gut looking like a sack of jello!  Eventually it dissipated on it's own so I look somewhat normal again, just a lot skinnier.  I have lost about 20 pounds in this ordeal.  I definitely wanted to drop a few pounds before, but not like that.  I paid a very high price to drop that 20.

    I also experienced night sweats for at least 3 weeks.  In the hospital I would sweat through my clothes and bed sheets and had to ask the nurses to change them 2 or 3 times a day.  When I got home from the hospital I continued sweating through my sheets and had to change my night clothes and sheets every night.  It is the worst feeling to wake up in the night and feel wet and cold because you have been sweating for hours.  It's no fun.

    One nice experience happened with my daughter Analisa.  She is married to a wonderful man but she still loves her Dad.  She came to visit several times in the hospital.  One day when Analisa was with me, there was a somewhat feisty nurses assistant present.  When I asked for her help on something, she would say no immediately.  I know she was just somewhat joking with me but it wasn't funny to me and I found it kind of offensive.  She wanted to make the point to me that I should be doing things for myself.  My thought was that I was suffering and needed kind assistance from the staff and I also was paying good money for the service there.  I had asked for her assistance to help me take a sponge bath.  This is just a matter of wiping a person down with soap and water and drying them off.  It is a kind and precious service to provide for someone who is suffering.  You do not remove all your clothes or anything like that.  It is a respectful and modest thing but it helps you regain some of your dignity to feel clean again.  Well, this nurses assistant didn't want to help me but she did bring in soap and water and towels so that I could do it myself.  I'm sure I could have done it myself.  That is true.  But my daughter Analisa stepped forward and helped me wash my arms and legs, my stomach, chest and back, and also my neck and face.  It was a very kind thing for her to do for her father and I appreciated it.  I will always remember that she provided that service for me when I was so weak and suffering so much.  She is a true blessing in my life just as each one of my children are.

    I must say that my parents have supported me heroically throughout this whole ordeal.  They are in their 70's but are in great health and condition.  They would both come spend hours with me everyday in the hospital.  I feel that I should be supporting them, but they are the ones supporting me.  They shouldn't have to do that at their age but they do and I am eternally grateful.  Even though I am out of the hospital, they check on me everyday and make sure I have everything I need.

    So where am I now?  I am home and recovering.  I notice small improvements every day although I still cough a lot and my right lung is not fully inflated yet.  I'm working on that.  I also don't yet have much of an appetite.  My sense of smell and taste suffered greatly in this experience.  Everything smells and tastes bad.  It's improving slowly but it's hard to eat when your sense of smell and taste are messed up.  I know that I'll be back to normal again soon.  In the meantime I'm on short term disability from work.  This is a blessing and will give me the necessary time to recover and I will recover.

    When all of this first happened to me I must admit that I temporalily felt that I had gotten a raw deal and that God must be mad at me, but then I remembered that our Father doesn't work that way.   All things work together for good for them that love the Lord.  God was just allowing me to be purified through this difficult experience.  He was teaching me and reminding me to rely on him, that he would support me through all my trials.  He does not rejoice in our pain but he provides his mercy and grace to us through our trials.  Sometimes we wish that we could change God's will, that we could have him save everyone from any kind of suffering, but this would not be to our eternal benefit.  It would deny us of the growth opportunities that we came to this world to experience.  We are on a holy path my brothers and sisters.  There is no lack of meaning in our earthly experiences.  It is all designed to help us on our way back to our Father in Heaven.

    I must mention that though I know I could have died in an experience like this, I did not pass that threshold to the other side.  I know that many have had sacred experiences with dyeing and visiting the other side of the veil.  This did not happen in my case.  I know that this is not my ordained path at least at this time.  I believe that the Lord wants me to continue to exercise my faith in him without having the privilege of witnessing or seeing what we would call heaven or paradise.  That experience will come to all of us at the very least when we lay our mortal bodies down.  I have no doubt that I will know the Savior when I see him again.  I say "again" because although we cannot remember, we have all seen the Savior before we entered this world.  That knowledge has been kept from us in this sphere so that we would learn to exercise and walk by faith because without faith it is impossible to please Him.  (See Hebrews 11)  It is one of the very basic things we have come to develop in this mortal life.  I have no doubt, however, that God lives and that there is a heaven and that angels from the other side help us on this side although we are mostly unaware of their assistance.

    I know that I will fully recover from this.  It is not my time to depart this earth.  I was promised this in two separate priesthood blessings that I received from my father.  I am still in the midst of this recovery but I know that I'll be alright.  I have learned, however, that life is fragile, and that God could call us home at any time.  Have we done enough to prepare ourselves to leave this life? It not, we need to prepare quickly.  The next life is only a heartbeat away.

    Thank you my brothers and sisters. I hope that we will always continue our walk of faith and our journey towards God.