Sunday, December 7, 2014

I Found A King, I Found A Friend

Amazing how Christmas comes around every year just at the time that I need it. Yesterday morning as I was working my way through the masses of a store I must have been carrying the weight of what I needed to do and the places I needed to be throughout the day. A lady who worked for the story kindly touched my arm and said, "Smile - it will help". 

I sometimes people-watch at stores. It isn't hard to read a paragraph or two of some people's life stories. Parents often carry the weight of trying to make  Christmas work on a shoe string budget or worse - without the ability to give anything at all. Some children already go to bed hungry around us.  Receiving gifts is a dream for too many. 

Christmas can be so hard for people who have recently lost loved ones and their absence is felt more emotionally during this season. Those who have wished to be married and have not yet also sometimes feel a loneliness that is more acute this time of year. 

I suppose we all carry the weight of extra busyness now.

I have had moments in my life where I knew - in all the personal ways that build our relationship with Christ, that He loved me dearly and was very close to me. Moments that brought me to my knees and left me feeling of deep love for hours and days. Moments where I felt like I could feel the warmth of His powerful and tender healing love close to me. I have come to know my Healer, my Savior, my Friend, my Mediator and the Prince of Peace. 

But I have also had moments where I have forgotten. It is amazing how many mistakes I always make and, despite my best efforts (and sometimes not my best efforts) how many stupid things I do. I keep thinking that one day I will get the hang of it and stop doing dumb things. But sadly, that is something we all do and have to work on. As time goes by we have our memories of the sacred healing moments clouded and we sometimes forget or even doubt that it happened or could happen again. 

But this is the magic of this time of year - we get to be reminded of the times when we knew that Jesus healed us and even better, we get so many opportunities to be healed again. Healed of our sin, healed of holding onto anger and our grudges and not forgiving others, healed of our heartache and our loneliness - healed by the tender loving power of Christ. I just want to share my testimony that if we look for it and take the time that we will have moments with Christ this Christmas, loving and healing and gentle moments that will help to ease the terrible burdens we carry and that weigh us down. 

As the Christmas song reminds us:

A sweeter face I ne'er will see
Than of those loving eyes smiling up at me.
I found a King, I found a Friend,
That night in Bethlehem.  -Daniel Carter

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Bathroom Transformation

I mentioned on Facebook that I would roll out these pictures of the bathroom renovation I did for my folks recently, with some great help. So if you are here, I am going to bore you with it.

We have done a lot of things at my parent's home but not much inside yet. Most of what we have done is to increase mobility for my parents. But some of it was just because we had to make some updates to make everything else we were going to do work for their mobility. So it was fun to kind of figure that all out. And bless my mom's heart - I basically just designed that bathroom aesthetically and she smiled and let me do it.

We decided to gut the entire bathroom, save the tub and toilet. There was rotting on the sub floor and we had to replace some of that before we could tile. You will notice the laundry chute that I hanged naked from when I was 15 to the viewing chagrin of at least two teenage girls. We painted the ceiling and walls (you can see the change from blue to gray in the final few pictures on the walls), put a tile kick plate on the walls, sealed the floors, changed the cabinet and counter top, etc. Then the accessories had to change as well - the toilet paper holder, the hand towel holder, etc. One of my favorite changes was the light in the bathroom that doesn't come through at all in the pictures.

We made some mistakes.
But I had great help and that covered my novice abilities.Thanks Connie, Lincoln, my dad, and a few friends from work. I was pretty happy that the whole thing was torn apart and basically back in in just a few days.

Now - on to the kitchen :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Why I Am A Mormon

I see on Facebook a lot of my friends are using an "I am a Mormon" picture as their profile right now. I like this idea. I wanted to share why I am a Mormon here if you will permit me.

Life is a funny learning experience, really. As little kids our faith was often pure. I believed very much that when I got down on my knees to pray that I would be talking to my Heavenly Father and that He would hear me. I remember once when my sister and I were alone, I was 7 and she was 8. We were scared and terrified. I remember that we decided to kneel and pray and ask for Heavenly Father to watch over us and protect us. The tender feelings of comfort and peace and love that came were real and I still think of that moment as something that made me love my sister more and also feel closer to God.

I grew up loving Joseph Smith. He was very real to me. I was baptized in the same spot on the river that he was baptized in. I used to go to Nauvoo and sit for hours reading the scriptures there, walking around the city, visiting his grave. I have a tender affection for him that started as a boy.

On my mission things were very clear and remarkable. I remember sitting in teaching experiences and feeling the lifting power of God change my life as I watched Him change those we taught. The power of Jesus Christ to cure hurt, salve the open sores of life and to redeem us from sins, both terrible as well as small, was visible in my life and in the lives of so many others.

I remember where I was when I gained my testimony of The Book of Mormon in my life, at least the penetrating kind that cements it in my heart. I was 17 and I was reading King Benjamin's sermon on Christ and the Atonement. I remember being unable to speak for an hour because I was so overwhelmed, comprehending for the first time a little of what Jesus did for me and I was speechless in gratitude.

 It's funny how we are tested again. I have seen a friend or two who seemed to once know the same things I knew and have left the faith, for a variety of reasons. Some times because they were inundated with material that seemed to confused what they thought they knew. Much of this material is prevalent right now. Other times we are tested because we make bigger mistakes as adults than we do as little children. Sin clouds our judgment and makes us forget what was pure and sure before.

We have all been here on these things. We grow up and our faith gets more bullets aimed at it than it does when we are younger. Seemingly compelling arguments arise that push us to ask questions. We make mistakes on a larger scale and sometimes and pride and humiliation seem to be hurdles that are desperately hard to overcome.

These issues are all accentuated by the fact that we may forget to do the things that nurture the pure feelings of the past - going to the temple, reading our scriptures, paying our tithing, etc.

I admit that I went through a time when my defenses were weaker than they should have been. Perhaps substantially weaker. I worried about things I knew and trouble challenged my thoughts.

There comes a point for us, and did for me, that we ask ourselves if we are going to fight for what we once knew or let the feelings of doubt move us from our moorings. Are we going to give up what we know for what we think we have learned?

I remember being driven to my knees for forgiveness. It didn't come all at once. I had ignored God so long that I had to really fight to feel His presence again. I had to begin to do those things that helped me feel so pure before. I had to read and study and attend the temple and watched as feelings of love and clarity and peace returned. It takes paying tithing and serving and loving. I remember after a time away from paying tithing that I cried when I paid again for the first time. I felt right and square.

Gradually, I began to see the purity of Christ's Atonement in my life make me better and cleaner.

Heaven knows I am a good distance away from where I need to be. I continue to do dumb things pretty much moment to moment. But my faith is pure again. I have fought the fight with doubt and challenges to my faith. I am sure I will have to go through more in the future. But God be praised for helping me feel and even KNOW that He Lives, that Jesus Christ suffered an impossible-to- understand pain for my many pains and sins, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God in whom God revealed His church and truth.

I am more convinced than I have ever been that these things are true. And this is why I am a Mormon today. It's pure and wonderful. And true.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Reaching Through The Confusion

Today I had a conversation with a friend who is a bit of a mess. His only sister died a few months ago after a painful fight with cancer, a fight that took a terrible toll on this man. Shortly after she passed he went to a bar where he resumed a bad habit of drinking. He is an alcoholic. He left that bar having too much to drink and was pulled over within 500 feet of the bar. He was arrested and charged with a DUI. 

In the car they also found other drugs as well as some items he had stolen. 

His mother passed a few years ago and his father hasn't been seen in decades.His brother committed suicide 2 years ago. He has alienated a lot of people in his life and is struggling with hopelessness and despair. 

The missionaries dropped by my office as they do on Tuesdays and we gave him a blessing. 

This was an interesting day to have this experience as the news of Max Hall's arrest came about, charged with possession of cocaine and shoplifting. I loved watching Max play football. He brought a lot of happy moments into my life. I know that he is a lightening rod for some people out there but I have been genuinely touched at the fans of the University of Utah who have expressed compassion for his problem and choices. 

Life can be so hard and so painful. I have wrapped myself up in bad choices before, suffocating myself in confusion and pain and there was no way to see the way out of it. It was exhausting and demoralizing. 

One of the things these moments have done for me as I drowned is that I watched those who reached through my embarrassment and caught my fall, cushioned my landing, built my confidence, cleared the debris in my mind and loved me to restoration Still to this day I need the hope that comes through Christ, often through other people. I am still often embarrassed for past actions. But Christ can heal this and has healed this in my life. 

God bless Max Hall and all those around us, Cougars or Utes or whomever, who are falling and making destructive decisions. May God bless us to reach through their pain and embarrassment and help them as brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Hope

For some time I have been watching the events that have been taking place relative to a very small but vocal group of women in the LDS Church relative to the priesthood and it seems like a good time today to post something.

I don't want to talk today about the Church's right to administer discipline - which I feel strongly they do. I also don't want to talk about the Church's right to define its own doctrine nor the right to define how it gets its doctrine - which I believe is revelatory and prophetic. Nor do I want to talk about the line which I think this member crossed that caused today's announcement of her excommunication. Other people have done that better than I could.

What I want to talk about today is my feelings about the Gospel and what we do about today's announcement. The Church has sometimes been referred to as a great caravan. If we use this analogy, the caravan moves forward from here and the majority of members will follow it, as they always have and will. I will do my best to be a part of this caravan. But to those one or two of my Facebook friends who were struggling before with aspects of the Church and have all but decided to leave this caravan because of today's announcement, my message is for you today.

Don't go.

Please stay with us.

 I cannot remember a time when I didn't have a testimony of the Gospel - and while my testimony has grown and had stronger times than others,  I have always known in my heart that it was true. I believe in prophetic guidance, temple covenants, modern day scripture, priesthood power and in the sweet and gentle confirmation of the Holy Spirit that led me to believe at so many undeniable times in my life. You know as well as I do that I am miles away from the man I hope to be, but I know where I want to go. I pray I get there despite myself sometimes.

But maybe this isn't what you have had a chance to experience yet. I have seen it happen in so many thousands of others, but maybe your hope has yet to be confirmed.  But I believe you have felt something in the Church - moments of softness and love and quietness and closeness with God. Please nurture these moments. I believe that if you can stay through this you will have those moments increase, that doubts will decrease and hope will increase and peace will happen.

I know the Church will move forward and be fine. Men and women by the millions have and will continue to have those warming moments that I believe come from the Gospel, with all the peace and hope that go with them. I would do anything to be together in this going forward.

God bless.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My 12 Year Old Moment With God

When I was 12 the scouts from my ward took a 5 day camping and hiking trip to Redcastle in the High Uintas. There were 20 of us on this trip, if I remember right. The poor scout leaders watched over us as we ran wild for 5 days, learned to play cards, dug our own holes for toilets, about drowned on a lake a few times on makeshift rafts, pumped our own water for drinking and went without a shower for a long, long time. I remember when we all ran out of mosquito spray that we used to have contests to see who had the most bites on them. One poor kid had more than 100 on his chest, arms, neck and back.

We had lots of time to run around like boys do, have crazy adventures and live a very free week. It was heaven.

We had a lot of fun together time and a fair amount of quiet together time. It was one of these quiet times that helped me learn an important lesson. 

We were gathered around a campfire and were goofing off and being 12 and 13 with the excitement that brings and as the night went on it very quickly became quiet. We ran out of things to say that were dumb, which seemed impossible. And then we started talking about the stars and God's creations and I remember looking up and suddenly becoming very aware that I felt very close to God at that exact moment. I also realized I wasn't the only one. There was a tenderness among this group of boys that was almost magical.

I realized there that God is very close to me, very aware of me, very loving of me. It was as sacred of a moment as I can remember.

This Easter week I am mindful of the fact that we don't always feel close to Him. Life winds it's way around bends that test our faith. I suppose I am not the only one who feels the weight of mistakes and sins that have kept us/keep us from feeling the tenderness and closeness of Christ and His powerful and gentle and personal Atoning sacrifice.

I share the witness that I have received as a boy and have confirmed many times that Christ died for you and for me, that He is close and loving and ready to heal us and our mistakes and our sins as we come to Him. And there are moments that we can really just know, without any doubt, that Christ loves us and is mighty to save and all things are possible with Him.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Kindness Almost Can't Help But Come Out

Since long before I was born my dad has been writing - a lot. He writes on a variety of subjects from gospel questions, history, life, humor, etc. He is a great poet as well. 

For years I have collected several thousand of these essays, poems, thoughts, etc. Each time he writes he has me read it to him and we discuss it. I admit this is a guilty pleasure. I have a more solid understanding of the foundations of my beliefs than I ever could have had without these read and discuss times. Life has never been too busy to miss a few minutes of "dad time". 

A recent essay was a reminder of how kindness softens situations and people and our own hearts. The tone of our voices is as important as the words we say and taking meanness out communications shows that we have a gentle heart. Anger and ugliness and discontent finds its way out of hearts into the tone of our voices. It almost can't help itself. If it is there, it is going to come out. But a kind and soft heart comes out as kindness and with a softening effect on others around us. 

Reading this essay recently brought an experience to mind where my dad demonstrated this inward softness of heart in his outward reaction. Some few years ago my father had an infection that almost cost him his legs and his life. The infection was bad enough it was causing violent spasms in his body. The infection very nearly took his life. His legs were almost unusable and he could barely stand, let alone walk. 

I was working far away and couldn't help immediately but my mother convinced him to go to the hospital in Murray. My own father drove her to the hospital when his pain was unbearable. He pulled up at the door and walked my handicapped mother to the emergency room of the hospital and got her seated and then went and parked the car and fought his own way back to the emergency room. On the way he spotted a young mother who was trying to carry bags and children in and was obviously frazzled. My own, extremely weak and sick dad, carried her bag in for her, as my mom relates. She wanted to smack him in the head but loved him more for it instead. 

The kindness in his heart almost couldn't help but come out. 

Thanks dad - for all the lessons taught, both written and lived.