Sunday, September 2, 2018

When God Set up Some Time for Me and My Son

I sent my oldest boy off to college the other day.  He's 18. He's a musician.  He's going to Berklee School of Music in Boston.  He's got scholarships. Significant ones.  He's worked his whole young life for this.  It's his dream to go there.  He wants this chance and not just to play the piano.  He wants to perform.  He wants to sing. It's in his blood.

The traditional route for him would've been to continue his classical piano track and study piano performance.  He won numerous piano competitions.  He played a concerto with the Utah Symphony; but that's not quite where his heart is at.  He yearns to create.  He yearns to connect through his own unique approach to composing and putting sounds together to move you.  That's what he's meant to do.

I always said to myself growing up that I would totally support my kids if they were unique enough to know what they wanted and to pursue it with all their passion.  God must have prepared me for this mission.  I was sent a son who would go for his dream with all his might.  I can see part of myself in him.  It wasn't my path to pursue a single track in music or some other endeavor, but because of my personality, I know what it's like to have those feelings, to have that drive.  So I believe that it was God's blessing to me to send me a son like that.  Hopefully it is a blessing to him too.

The other day, a few days before he left, he told me that he and a friend were going to take a drive up to northern Utah to see the Spiral Jetty.  The Spiral Jetty is a grand spiral composed of black lava rocks that sits out on a remote and isolated beach on the Great Salt Lake.  It was created as a natural work of art many years ago. I don't know exactly when it was built.  You can Google it.  It's really quite remarkable and other worldly.  You feel like you're on an alien planet when you go there just because of the environment.  It's like no other place that I know of on earth.

My son wanted an adventure before he had to leave to go to school.  Believe me, there is nothing like this place in Boston or anywhere in the east.  So off he went.  I was a little concerned because he told me that he would be driving the old van out on a dirt road.  Something inside said, "Oh I don't know if I want him driving out there in the van."  But I let him go anyway.  I warned him to be careful.

Anyway, he took off and I forgot even that he was gone.  Later it got close to midnight and he still hadn't come back.  I wasn't really worried and I was tired, so I went to bed.  Dad's can do that.  We don't worry in the same way that Moms do.  I figured that he was 18, I had taught him well, so no worries.

I woke up the next morning.  I was fired up because I just started a new sales job.  I had been unemployed for 6 months.  That was not pleasant and I had all this pent up energy and I wanted to get out and work and visit my new customers.  I love to get on the road with a purpose and make things happen.  That's part of the drive that my son and I both have.  We need to be out doing something that matters and that fills us up, something that accomplishes something, something good.  So I started out that day looking to kick it in my new job.

I walked out of my bedroom to start the day and I happened to glance into my son's room.  He wasn't there.  Empty bed. Hmmm...  What the heck?  Maybe he just drove back to his Mom's house.  I continued to get ready to start my day.

I called him when I got in the car but no answer.  I left a message.  "Call me as soon as you get this.  I need to know where you are.  I'm sure you just went to your Mom's house."  A few minutes later I get a call from him but there was no voice on the other end of the line.  I hung up.  A few minutes later another call comes in.  I answered.  It was my son.  "Where are you?"  I ask.  "Did you drive to your Mom's house last night?"

"Ugh.. Well... Dad... That's the thing.  Something crazy happened last night."


"Ya, well we were driving out to the Spiral Jetty on the dirt road and we almost got there and then the right front tire blew.  I could hear the puncture and air just leaking out of it.  I pulled over to the side of the road and I know how to change a tire and all but I couldn't get the last lug nut off.  It is stuck on there like cement.  I also can't get the spare tire loose up under the van.  It's stuck too. Three people stopped to try to help us but none of them could make that thing budge.  My friend called Triple AAA but they won't come out to help us on a dirt road, so we just hitch hiked back into Brigham City and stayed in a hotel last night.

Oh crap! I'm thinking to myself.  Now I'm going to have to hire a tow truck to go out there and pull it out.  It will cost me a fortune to do that.   I don't wan't to have to do that.  The other alternative is to just go drive out there and try to change the tire myself, but I don't want to mess up my own car driving back there.  What am I going to do?  I'm also not too thrilled that he didn't call me the last night to tell me what was going on.  He shouldn't leave me in the dark like that.  But on the other hand, I'm kind of satisfied that he used his own brain and common sense to handle his situation.  I did teach him some independence after all.

"Where are you now?"

"I'm in Brigham City and my friend got a ride and someone is going to pick us up and take us back to Salt Lake."

"Wait. Don't go anywhere.  I'm coming up your way anyway for an appointment.  I'll just come and get you after my meeting."

"Okay Dad.  I guess I can wait."

So there he waited for me at the Brigham City Library.  That was fortuitous that I was actually going up his way anyway.  Okay.  No big deal.  I'll get the problem solved and just make some more sales calls while I'm in the area I think to myself.

So a couple of hours later I arrive at the Brigham City Library.  There he is just chilling and looking at stuff on his cell phone.

"Hey Boy!  What's up?"

"Aw Dad.  You're here.  I just had the coolest adventure!"

He proceeds to tell me all about his adventure getting the blow out, trying to change the tire,  exploring the otherworldly environment, and hitch hiking back and staying in a hotel.  He was relishing the experience.  I'm taken back a little, the old me might of gotten after him for taking the old van out on the dirt road in the first place, getting a flat tire and not calling me when it happened, but that's really not me anymore.  I see that he had a really good experience.  I see that he acted like an adult like I taught him and he used some decent judgement and solved his own immediate problem.

"Okay."  I say.  "How far away is the van?"

"Oh, it's about an hour away from here."

"What???  And how far is it down the dirt road?"

"Ugh.  It's about 15 miles on the dirt road, but don't worry Dad, your car will be fine."

Well there goes my first day of calling on customers and getting my new job going.  An hour there, an hour fixing the problem possibly, another hour back to Brigham, another hour to get new tires put on if we're lucky, and another hour back to Salt Lake.  Well this work day is blown I realize.  I start to get irritated for a second there, but then I think better.  This is just a great opportunity for me to spend a little more time with my son.  It's like the outing I should have planned for us in the first place.  Maybe God took a little time and let me spend some good quality time with son my before he leaves.  This is a transition time now.  Things are changing.  Life keeps transforming itself.  My kids are growing up and leaving me.  They're going to school.  They're getting married.  This is one memory that my son and I can have while he still is in my home.  It's one last time when he's still kind of a kid.  Maybe this is the time that God has given me to love and to continue to build a relationship with my son before he leaves.

The realization passes over me and any frustration I feel starts to dissolve.  My attitude starts to change.  I say a silent prayer of thanks to God because I begin to see his hand in this.  I will go with this plan.  I will spend this quality time with my son and I won't worry about anything else.  So I move forward.

First we go over to Ace Hardware and I get some WD 40.  That helps a myriad of problems.  At least it has in the past.  Then we go get my car gassed up.  Then we hit up Wendy's and I get the chicken salad because I'm on a diet and all.  I've lost 9 pounds so far.  Pretty good!  Anyway, we begin to talk.  We talk about cars.  We talk about music.  I tell him what is was like in the 80's.  We talk about philosophy.  We talk about my diet and when it's okay to eat some dessert.  We talk about God.  We talk about spirituality.

On the way out to the Spiral Jetty my son tells me.  "I'm grateful for how you raised me Dad.  You taught me about how to be honorable and to have good morals.  I don't regret that you raised me in a religious home.  I don't regret that you raised me Mormon."

"And I don't regret ever having you as my son.  It's been an honor and a privilege to be your Dad.  I have never been disappointed in you.  I'm proud of you and always will be."

We keep driving down the dirt road.  Finally at mile 14 we catch site of the old van.  It's sitting there looking forlorn on the side of the road as if it's been waiting an eternity for us.

I get down to see the problem on the right front side.  I'm praying that God will help me get that lug nut off so I can change the tire.  The lug wrench is already on the nut.  I pull it off and then spray it generously with WD 40.  I reapply the wrench and put my hands on it and  begin to apply pressure but it doesn't move even a little.  It defies me, but I'm not too worried yet.  I lift my foot and place it strategically on that wrench and I push down with great force.  Still nothing.  The lug nut is laughing at me now.  Next I actually stand up on top of the wrench with my full weight and start bouncing on top of it.  A jumping 220 pound man doesn't even make it move an inch. Not even a centimeter.

I'm starting to sweat now in my slacks, my button down dress shirt and dress shoes.  Crud!

Somehow my son gets reception on his cell phone and looks up on You Tube how to get a stuck lug nut loose.  The video goes through everything I already tried but then adds a new twist: The idea of  a cheater bar.  Just attach a cheater bar to the end of the wrench and apply pressure and the lug nut loosens up like butter.  Well dang!  Why didn't I think of that?  Simple!

The only problem is that I don't have said bar.  I rummage around in the trunk of my car and get out a long ice scraper.  Remove the brush and you have a cheater bar.  The only thing is, that  this little bar is aluminum.  It's weak at best.  I could bend it easily across my knee, but what the heck.  We give it a try and sure enough it bends and breaks.  Note to self.  Buy a new ice scraper before winter.

Well, we had tried about everything I could think of but I wasn't giving up yet.  We were out in the middle of nowhere.  How much would a tow truck cost to come this far out from Brigham City with a 14 mile journey on a dirt road?  I didn't want to know, so I did what any Dad and former football player would do.  I put my foot on the wrench one more time and pushed with all my might. I was praying at the same time mind you.  It wasn't budging again but then wait, I hear a little screech and my foot starts to lower and by golly that lug nut actually loosened and  I got down and turned that wrench with much delight and removed that dang nut.

"Yes!  You did it Dad!  You got it!  You used your Dad magic and got that thing to loosen!  Thank you so much!" My son is exuberant.  I'm pretty happy myself.

We managed to get the spare loose and lowered it to the ground under the undercarriage of the van.  It looked pathetic and likely had never been used for the 17 years of the van's existence.  We got it on the wheel and I tightened everything down and we were ready to go.

I looked up at my son with a little sweat dripping from my brow and asked him.  "Well, did you ever get to see the Spiral Jetty?"

"No we didn't.  It's just one mile away from here around that big bend on the other side of that mountain."

"Well jump in my car then and let's go see it.  The old van can wait a few more minutes.  We need to see that Jetty."

And so we did.  We got in my car and carefully headed over there.  When we arrived we viewed an exceedingly curious  spiral formation made out of volcanic rock like I mentioned, and it was really quite impressive to look at.  It was just way out in the middle of nowhere.  As my Grandpa would say, "It was to hell and gone."  That's how far it felt out there. But you know, sometimes being out in the middle of nowhere gives you a feeling of awe like you're part of a world that's much larger than yourself.  You catch a glimpse of God's creation and the majesty of it, even in a desolate area like that.  My son gets it and so do I.

We spent a little time at the Jetty and I took some pics and I let my son walk out onto it.  I didn't want to go that far because I was in my dress clothes for work.  I didn't want to get all sandy and dusty and possibly muddy too, more than I already was, so I just stayed and watched as my son went down a rocky incline and out onto the Jetty.  He came back up a little while later and we got back into the car.

On the return we were greeted by a very large white pelican just staring at us from the side of the road.  It didn't get spooked or anything.  It just stood there as we slowly passed it as if it was used to cars and people passing by gawking.  My son took some pictures.  Note to self.  Get him to send those pics.  I forgot about that till right now.  Maybe the white pelican was a sign of peace and tranquility for us.  Maybe his wings represented the freedom that my son was going to have as he left for his new adventure in college.  We can look at it that way if we want to.  Why not?

Anyway, we got back to the old van.  My son jumped in and slowly followed me back to civilization.  We got to Brigham and I bought two new front tires for it and had them installed.  We only stopped once on the way to make sure those lug nuts were tightened down enough for the journey.  The old spare lasted and did the job.

Later we made it back to Salt Lake safe and sound.  Mission accomplished.  I know this might seem like just another day in the life of a father but I'll always remember that day when God worked things out for me to have a great experience with my son before he totally left his youth and became a full grown man.  Somethings happen in life at the right time and the right place.  The significance of these experiences is not lost on me though they may seem commonplace to others.

Oh, and one more thing.  I know it was God that helped me loosen that nut too.

God is in all the details of our lives if we only have eyes to see and ears to hear.  Listen with your ears and see with your eyes.  Feel with your heart.  There is more going on your life than just what the five senses show.  Our relationships have meaning. There is a deep and rich spiritual world available to all of us who are willing to see it and experience it.  Open your heart so that you can know it. Dive in and see truth behind the mundane my friends.  We are spiritual beings having a mortal experience.

There is more just on the other side of the bend.

Bless you all my brothers and sisters.

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.