Merry Christmas, all!
I’ve been thinking a lot about trusting God. It’s a pretty tall order to face all the trials of life and then expect that a being I’ve never physically seen, that is supreme and omnipotent, has enough interest in me to be involved in assisting me in allowing good things to happen.
Yet, I have to say without hesitation that I know He does care for me enough to be concerned about my insignificant problems (that to me are monumentally hard). And, even more especially, I know that He loves and cares for my family as well and is laying the groundwork of success at their feet even more, perhaps, than my own.
Alma (younger) notes to his son Helaman:
I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.# Alma 36:3, Book of Mormon
To me, this is especially interesting of a passage to Helaman, the son who would eventually serve as the High Priest over the land and who’s grandson, though at the time unbeknownst to him, would welcome the Savior to the land after His resurrection and ascension in the old world.
This, not to his wayward son but his more-righteous one, this advice tells something of the trial and test of being righteous as opposed to the consequences of a life of sin and rebellion. Perhaps, this message is intended to express–not to the rebellious ones, but to those trying to life solid, Christian lives–that doing good is hard sometimes, not always a pleasure. And, sometimes, it’s a joy with little measure… at least in the moment. Yet, I can safely say that no matter how downtrodden you might feel at times, getting up early to get to a meeting, or going out late to help someone in need, the blessings of a life driven by love and service far outweigh and outlast any other lifestyle I have ever seen.
Faithful people have a right to be happy. There’s something solid about being able to say with assurance, “I’ve been where I said I would be. I’ve done what I said I would do.” If I can truly say that about my life, the rest I can put safely in God’s hands knowing he can do more with it than I ever could on my own.
Marvin J. Ashton once relayed a quote of N. Eldon Tanner when he would comment on how to accomplish hard things: “All we have to do is what is right.” to which he added, “Thank the Lord that he believes in doing that which is right, rather than that which is only expedient.” #
I believe in God. I believe that he is and that his wisdom is far greater than my own. I have confidence and faith in that, and hope I can always stay true to that feeling in my heart.
Want to lead in complex times?
“Simply put, as businesses are increasingly challenged by dynamic change and crises, it becomes ever more crucial for their leadership teams to have sufficient diversity to see what is happening from different perspectives, and sufficient collegiality to work collaboratively with each other even when under stress.”
This is an excellent talk by Brad Wilcox about the Grace of God and how our purpose in life is less about what we do and more about where we place our love… our love for ourselves vs our love for God’s children and our love for doing the kinds of things God would do if he was where you are.
While I was listening to this, I enjoyed his statement here:
We are not paying the demands of justice. NOT EVEN THE SMALLEST PART. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Christ did, by using it to live a life like his.
I listed to a powerful talk from General Conference this morning titled “Keeping Covenants” by M. Russell Ballard, an Apostle. His message was clear, appealing and powerful. It is completely applicable today as it ever was. If you asked someone to listen to it, they will tell you it’s message is very current, although it was given back in April, 1993.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the things in life that I need vs. the things I don’t need.
As a father, its my job to teach my kids the difference between needs and wants.
As a man, its critical for me to keep clear not only that difference but also the added complexity of things that are detrimental to my success individually or in my work or my marriage, my family, and my discipleship. Some things are simply no greater or worse than distractions. Other things are corrosive to the soul, like poison to my ability to be real, grounded, and able to respond with strength to life’s challenges.
The truth is, every day is a struggle. Every day is hard. If I don’t stay clear on what I truly need, even at the expense of good things that are comparatively wants, I could develop a pattern of selfishness that simply can’t create lasting peace and happiness.
I’m not afraid to admit that I fail at this… often.
But, that is exactly why, I think, I have been more successful than at earlier times in my life… because I need to do better and be more, and I admit that out loud.
Brothers and sisters, old and young, I plead with each of you to remember that wickedness never was happiness and that sin leads to misery. Young people, do not seek happiness in the glittering but shallow things of the world. We cannot achieve lasting happiness by pursuing the wrong things. Someone once said, “You can never get enough of what you don’t need, because what you don’t need won’t satisfy you.”
Young and old, turn your eyes and your hearts away from the deceptive messages of the media. There is no happiness in alcohol or drugs, only enslavement. There is no happiness in violence, only pain and sorrow. There is no happiness in sexual relations and physical familiarities outside the bonds of marriage, only degradation and increased momentum along the way to spiritual death.
There is no lasting happiness in what we possess. Happiness and joy come from what a person is, not from what he or she possesses or appears to be. Youth, hold fast to your standards. Study and use that saving pamphlet, For the Strength of Youth.
Righteousness fosters righteousness. The effects of righteous examples are felt for generations to come. Good parenting produces youth who make good parents. Just as many of us have been strengthened by the noble examples of our pioneering ancestors in many lands, so the righteous choices and sacrifices of our day can bless our families and our friends and our nations for all the years to come.
[“Joy and Mercy”, DALLIN H. OAKS, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1991/11/joy-and-mercy ]
One of life’s unanswered questions: Why is it so hard to get toilet paper off a new roll? http://bit.ly/18wvY9u
It would be easy to fast until you get hungry, then eat.
That’s the point.
Fasting teaches us through pain of hunger what fortitude is required to avoid the easy-outs of sin or laziness when discipleship gets hard. Fasting trains the physical body how to succumb to the will of the mind. This is the same process the spirit must learn to submit and choose to honor your covenants and promises.
And in the end, we are more attuned, more focused, and more grateful for the blessings of those very covenants and promises.
“When a person commences to travel over a path that the Lord has marked out, and by which to accomplish good in His interest, he is sure to succeed. He is precisely where God wants him to be, and there is the place that you may, with the greatest propriety, ask God for His blessing.”
– Lorenzo Snow.
Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Lorenzo Snow. Chapter 13: Relief Society: True Charity and Pure Religion
Summary: If being tattooed and being a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ (the Mormons) is a switch, maybe we all need to re-examine what it must be like for anyone (you, me, your mother-in-law or neighbor) trying to move forward in this life, no matter their past. After all, isn’t that what this Church is about? Letting your past drive you, not define you, and “having unshaken faith in [Christ], relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save”?
A colleague at work today asked if I know about Al Fox, aka “The Tattooed Mormon”, a young woman who joined the church a few years ago from Rochester, NY, and who has moved to Utah and, among other things, speaks frequently to youth around the state and country. No, I didn’t know about her, but as much as I like her story and support all the work she’s trying to do and service she’s giving, I am subtly influenced by really two different undertones here:
The first is that there’s no avoiding the rubbernecking effect here. She’s mormon (what!). She looks like a Utahn. She likes churchy things! (what?!!) She has tatoos! (OH MY GOsh!) WE MUST HAVE FIRESIDES AND RECORD SEVERAL PODCASTS WITH HER!!!! BREAK OUT THE CENTERPIECES, SISTERS!
The second is that she represents something that I have been feeling for several years now, and that is the RELIGION of the Church and the CULTURE of the Church are rapidly disconnecting.
I think several factors are driving this:
- Next-generation coming into their own in the Church
I have talked at-length before about how I love the Millennials, aka Gen Y. I love their energy, vitality for life and their zeal for the Gospel. Now, they are your Young Men and Young Women Presidents. Now, they are taking the reins that Gen X has held for a long time but with less distrust than Gen X traditionally has, and they are more willing to sacrifice their time and energy to do good for the sake of doing good than Gen X has been.
- Millennials not afraid of the Truth–they want it straight.
It helps that this generation loves the truth. They are idealistic and they want it straight. It may be well said of them what J. Ruben Clark said: ”
“[the youth are] hungry for things of the Spirit [and] eager to learn the gospel.” He said: “They want it straight, undiluted. They want to know … about our beliefs; they want to gain testimonies of their truth. They are not now doubters but inquirers, seekers after truth.”
President Clark continued: “You do not have to sneak up behind this spiritually experienced youth and whisper religion in [their] ears; you can come right out, face to face, and talk with [them]. … You can bring these truths to [them] openly. … There is no need for gradual approaches.” [Quoted by Boyd K. Packer in April, 2009 General Conference, “Counsel to Young Men“]
- Missionary age being lowered
This is a driving force for change in the Church. Everyone is going on missions now, it seems, and it is fantastic. Though the bar has been raised, the call is being answered! Younger, and younger, these youth are prepared–through real life experiences, not just textbook examples and Sunday afternoon sleepy lessons–to bring Christ’s Gospel into their life and to share it with others.
- Renewed doctrinal focus
I feel a renewed focus on doctrine in the church, not “sunday school answers”. At least, where I live, and perhaps this is my perception, I feel a sense of urgency to talk about applying the doctrine of the Gospel for when things are hard in life over when things are idyllic.
- Reality about sin and wickedness in the Church
Where I live, it has finally become admitted out loud that people in the Church still sin and make mistakes. Sarcasm aside, there are open groups and therapy available for those who have, for example, fallen from sin to addiction
In an interview on the Cultural Hall Podcast, she relates a story about being in Utah and going to Cafe Rio and, being tattooed, she became a victim to one of Utah Mormonism’s favorite pastimes: passing judgement. Afterall, that’s what we do here (sarcasm). When I heard this, I had to facepalm because, of course, she got judged. Of course, we can’t look at someone with tatoos without thinking crazy things. But, she responded just right (youtube), I think, and the story has turned out for the best.
I first noticed this several years ago as I was going through what I call my own restoration to the Church. I had drifted from some of the teachings and needed to determine if I was going to continue with the Gospel of Jesus Christ or not.
In that state, I began to really feel harshly judged, both by people who knew me and people who didn’t. Now, I am not saying their feelings weren’t justified, but through that process, I also learned during that time that the fastest way to get nobody to talk to you at all is to show up to a family ward in your thirties… by yourself. Something is wrong with you. You must have the plague or perhaps facial hair or (!!) not hometeach very regularly.
It came down to this: As I worked slowly and steadily in my journey back to Christ, and step-by-step had to realize that I could not do it alone and I needed the enabling power of the Atonement to help me overcome my weaknesses, it came down to a decision I needed to make between fully accepting the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which included being a part of the culture of the Church, or not.
And, I chose to contribute rather than to back off and throw stones.
There’s far too much good here, and I want to enjoy it and share it with as many people as I can!
It always brings me back to this video from Daughtry: What about NOW?? What if THIS is the time to actually step OUTSIDE your comfort zone and make a real difference for someone else?? NOW!
I pretty much want to be like this guy when I grow up.
Though he died with 18 other hotshot firefighters, Deceased Arizona firefighter Andrew Ashcraft unknowingly left something very tender and meaningful behind for his wife and family to cherish — a cheap rubber bracelet — but it’s priceless to his widow, Juliann, and I am sure it will be priceless to their four boys, one of them named “Choice”, after the nickname their father acquired when he chose actively to avoid certain behaviors when touring with a rock band in his younger years.
“There weren’t a lot of things that came back intact,” she said. “The damage was pretty catastrophic. Everything was charred and melted — his pocket knife, his compass. They couldn’t even find his watch.”
But there was among Andrew’s personal effects a rubber wristband — formerly white, now yellowed and singed, but still wonderfully recognizable to Juliann.
“About six months ago Andrew was in charge of our family home evening,” she said, referring to a common practice among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to gather weekly as a family to strengthen faith and family bonds through scripture study, games, treats and prayer. “His lesson was aimed at our children (ages 6 and younger) about how we all need to be good so we can be together as a family forever. As part of the lesson he got us all these white rubber wristbands. He said they would remind us to be good, so we called them our ‘Be Good bracelets.’
“The kids and I wore ours for a few days, but then we took them off and only wore them once in a while,” she continued. “But Andrew promised me that he would wear his until it fell off his wrist — because it was so worn out — or until the day he died. To him, it was a symbol of his commitment to me and to our family and that it was forever. So he wore it all the time, and he told me he looked at it a lot. It reminded him of us, and it made him want to be a better man.”
Juliann said she had no expectation that Andrew’s “Be Good bracelet” would survive the fire. “It was just a cheap thing,” she said, “and it was made of rubber — not exactly fire resistant.”
But when she saw it among Andrew’s effects — one of only a handful of items to make it through the blaze intact — she said she was overwhelmed by what she called a “tender mercy.” #
At a time in her life when everything is surely in a state of upheaval (you can donate to help her family, if you choose), this appears to be a very tender mercy, indeed, perhaps referencing the common expression of faith in Christianity and especially in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that the Lord prompts us through His Spirit to recognize physical witnesses of His divine love and care for us through small, simple things that the world may overlook, but to us–His children–are very meaningful.
Elder David A. Bednar, an Apostle and member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ said the following about tender mercies in a recent address to the world and to the Church (April 2005):
When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance (see 1 Ne. 1:20). [Tender Mercies, General Conference, April 2005]
This bracelet, and the fact that it wasn’t utterly destroyed while everything else was, seems to be a witness of that faith. Part of me imagines that Andrew Ashcraft, in his final moments on earth, prayed that God would protect and care for his soon-to-be widow and his sons. He was sealed to them in the Temple, which gives faith and hope that his family would be with him eternally, but surely, this caring father wanted, somehow, for his wife and children to know that he was good and to know that he loved them.
“He was a good man,” Juliann said simply, powerfully. “A lot of us claim to be the things that we are only aspiring to be. We go through the motions, but it’s not really inside us. Andrew was just good. He wasn’t perfect — no one is. But he didn’t pretend to be good; he was good.” (# emphasis added)
Video: Mormon Messages — The Tender Mercies of the Lord 3:49
“God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity in the cloud, the oil in the earth. He left the rivers unbridged, the forests unfelled and the cities unbuilt. God gives to us the challenge of raw materials, not the ease of finished things. He leaves the pictures unpainted and the music unsung and the problems unsolved, that we might know the joys and glories of creation.”
– Thomas S. Monson
#hat-tip to LDS Quote a Day for noting this so I could find it online. This has been a favorite quote of mine for years and I appreciate being able to find it.
I just unsubscribed from a political email list.
It’s not necessarily because I disagree with what they are trying to promote, but because they throw everything into the bucket of “(insert political figurehead) is trying to limit job growth”
Look, I know are idealistic opinions out there on how to create jobs in this economy. I know there are people out there for every kind of policy that will feel like it’s the wrong one. But, I can’t remember any political person who decided and openly said “I hate jobs, and I’m never going to allow them to be created again.”
Or, as my friend Blake might say, channeling his inner nacho libre: “I hate all de jobs in all de world.”
The truth is, I’m not a political scientist. Nor am I an economist, (though I considered playing one on tv once). I appreciate thoughtful, rational dialogue on topics that affect our economy and nation, and I want to be informed. However, I hate being treated like I’m an idiot that needs to be spoonfed political information, carefully spun to rile me up at the audacity of (recall previously named political figurehead)’s backroom*, partisan*, anti-American* attempts to sneak another one past me. Not me, brother! I am a watchman on this proverbial ivory tower of political purity! Bring it on (political figurehead). You’ve done it this time. NOW, you get to deal with ME and my previously unknown-to-me SuperPAC friends. I’m going to click “ACT ON THIS” right now in this email. I hope you’re ready for me to bring down the thunder, buddy!
Plus, there’s a minimal-to-slight chance that this group or PAC or whoever they are actually knows who I am. I don’t recall signing up for anything from this organization.
The saddest part? This organization wouldn’t send emails like this if it didn’t work. I wouldn’t be surprised if I hear some of the rhetoric in this email around the water cooler, or get it forwarded it to me from some of my more politically-minded contacts.
So much for deeply valuable social dialogue.
So, you just spammed me, and this is crazy, but here’s my email: unsubscribe me, baby.
* This is a carefully crafted political spin word which can be applied to any and all politician I dislike, at any time, for any or no reason, to exclaim my disgust and disdain for them.